A methodology that enables the identification and quantification of detergents frequently used in the purification of membrane proteins has been developed. The procedure consists of detergent separation via thin-layer chromatography, followed by visualization with iodine vapor staining and subsequent quantification with laser densitometry. We demonstrate that a panel of detergents that are frequently used to purify membrane proteins displays distinctive mobilities in a solvent system consisting of chloroform:methanol:ammonium hydroxide (63:35:5), thereby permitting their separation and identification. In addition, we establish with both the nonionic detergent dodecylmaltoside and the anionic detergent sarkosyl that a linear relationship between detergent quantity and optical density is obtained over a wide range of detergent levels. Furthermore, we demonstrate the accuracy and precision of the assay. Moreover, a strategy for determining the intrinsic iodine-staining capacity of a membrane protein following the removal of associated detergent is presented. Finally, we show the utility of this protocol in measuring detergent concentration following detergent exchange via gel filtration chromatography. The efficacy of this approach for characterizing the detergent present in purified membrane protein preparations prior to conducting crystallization trials is discussed.