The retention behaviour of polyimide ultrafiltration membranes was investigated using dilute solutions of polystyrene in ethyl acetate as test solutions. It is shown that flow-induced deformation of the polystyrene chains highly affects the membrane retention. This coil-stretch transition is not instantaneous, but gradual. The concept of a deformation resistance has been ontroduced to explain this behaviour. This concept can be applied to describe the flux behaviour of the membranes during the tests as well. Solute deformation allows comparison of the pore size distributions of the membranes qualitatively. Retention measurements were also performed with silver sol particles that were prepared in mixtures of ethanol and water; these sols remain stable as long as the ethanol concentration does not exceed 57 vol%. The sols were completely retained by the membranes, which is probably caused by the fact that the effective diameter of the particles is much larger than that observed by transmission electron microscopy.