A direct (i.e. noniterative) method for desmearing the beam-height effect in small-angle X-ray scattering is discussed. The method is applicable to rectangular collimation systems with arbitrary beam-height intensity profiles. The process involves the construction of an upper-triangular matrix of terms containing the resolution information. A straightforward back-substitution process can then be used to determine the ideal pinhole-collimated curve for any experimental curve obtained with the given resolution. The principal advantage of the method lies in its simplicity, which facilitates an examination of the propagation of random errors through the desmearing process. A comparison between the direct method and the iterative approach of Glatter [J. Appl. Cryst. (1974), 7, 147–153] is made to illustrate the efficiency of the technique.