Poor permeability of the lipopolysaccharide-based outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria is compensated by the existence of protein channels (porins) that selectively admit low molecular weight substrates, including many antibiotics. Improved understanding of the translocation mechanisms of porin substrates could help guide the design of antibiotics capable of achieving high intracellular exposure. Energy barriers to channel entry and exit govern antibiotic fluxes through porins. We have previously reported a hypothesis that the costs of transferring protein solvation to and from bulk medium underlie the barriers to protein-ligand association and dissociation, respectively, concomitant with the gain and loss of protein-ligand interactions during those processes. We have now applied this hypothesis to explain the published rates of entry (association) and exit (dissociation) of six antibiotics to/from reconstituted E. coli porin OmpC. WaterMap was used to estimate the total water transfer energies resulting from transient occupation by each antibiotic. Our results suggest that solvation within the porin cavity is highly energetically favorable, and the observed moderately fast entry rates of the antibiotics are consistent with replacement of protein-water H-bonds. The observed ultrafast exit kinetics is consistent with the lack of intrachannel solvation sites that convey unfavorable resolvation during antibiotic dissociation. These results are aligned with known general relationships between antibiotic efficacy and physicochemical properties, namely unusually low logP, reflecting an abundance of H-bond partners. We conclude that antibiotics figuratively “melt” their way through porin solvation at a rate determined by the cost of exchanging protein-solvent for protein-antibiotic H-bonds. Proteins 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.