Solvent dyes are used to color refined petroleum products to enable differentiation between gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels. Analysis for these dyes in the hydrocarbon product is difficult due to their very low concentrations in such a complex matrix. Flow injection analysis/electrospray ionization/mass spectrometry in both negative and positive mode was used to optimize ionization of ten typical solvent dyes. Samples of hydrocarbon product were analyzed under similar conditions. Positive electrospray ionization produced very complex spectra, which were not suitably specific for targeting only the dyes. Negative electrospray ionization produced simple spectra because aliphatic and aromatic moieties were not ionized. This enabled screening for a target dye in samples of hydrocarbon product from a spill.