Abstract Concepts of the preparative liquid chromatography of proteins are well documented and provide the necessary information to design purification schemes. The success of these concepts depends, however, on the intrinsic characteristics of the packing material. Specific suppliers have proposed chromatographic sorbents based on different polymeric matrices, the intrinsic characteristics of which are responsible for the final results. A review of existing base matrix properties permits an optimized selection for a particular separation purpose. Selectivity, efficiency, capacity and productivity are described with respect to specific packings. Additionally, a section is devoted to sorbent deterioration and cleaning aspects, both of which have a large impact on the choice criteria for preparative purposes. Chemical treatments necessary to clean the sorbent may have a deleterious effect, consequently reducing their loadability or their long-term usage.