Changes in the metal-working industry, as a result of new environmental legislation or health and safety initiatives, creates the need for constant re-formulation of soluble cutting fluids. In order for there to be confidence in the product's ability to perform its required function successfully, there must be some clearly defined test methods for assessing machinability. Such a test methodology must provide comprehensive data on the fluid's lubrication and cooling properties, which are likely to occur in application. This paper describes the functions of soluble cutting fluids and discusses ways in which performance has been previously determined. Furthermore, it presents a new method for assessing machinability which is proposed as the basis for the development of a new and universal test protocol.