A method for the determination of methylene blue active substances in whole-water samples by liquid-liquid extraction and spectrophotometric detection is described. Sulfate and sulfonate-based surfectants are reacted with methylene blue to form a blue-colored complex. The complex is extracted into chloroform, back-washed with an acidified phosphate-based buffer solution, and measured against external standards with a probe spectrophotometer. The method detection limt for routine analysis is 0.02 milligram per liter. The precision is plus/minus 10 percent relative standard deviation. The positive bias from nitrate and chloride and U.S. Geological Survey method O-3111-83 for methylene blue active substances is minized by adding a back-washing step.