The adhesion of three Escherichia coli strains on to six poly(methacrylates) differing in hydrophobicity and surface charge was measured as a function of time under laminar flow conditions. Polymers used were poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA), poly(hydroxyethyl methacrylate) (PHEMA) and copolymers of MMA or HEMA with either 15% methacrylic acid (MAA) or 15% trimethylaminoethyl methacrylate-HCl salt (TMAEMA-Cl). Bacterial and polymer surfaces were characterized by means of water contact angles and zeta potentials. Both the sessile drop contact angles and the zeta potentials of the bacterial surfaces were significantly different. No significant differences in the sessile drop contact angles of the polymer surfaces were observed. Using the Wilhelmy plate technique large contact angle hysteresis was observed for the different polymer surfaces. Surfaces of copolymers with MAA had more negative zeta potentials than those of the corresponding homopolymers. Surfaces of copolymers with TMAEMA-Cl had positive zeta potentials. The highest numbers of adherent bacteria were found on materials with positive zeta potentials, irrespective of the bacterial strain used. Bacterial adhesion on to copolymers with MAA was less than on to the corresponding homopolymers. Bacterial equilibrium adhesion values correlate with the zeta potentials of the polymer surfaces (r greater than 0.85). On substrates with less negative zeta potentials high numbers of adhered bacteria were observed. Additionally, the equilibrium bacterial adhesion values could be related with receding contact angles of polymer surfaces with negative zeta potentials (r greater than 0.86). High equilibrium adhesion values were obtained for polymers with high contact angles. No correlation between the zeta potentials and contact angles of the bacteria with the adhesion values was found.