Abstract A dynamic headspace stripping method for the determination of low levels of industrial hydrocarbon solvents in water is reported. Samples taken from industrial aqueous effluents and estuarine waters were sparged at 30 ml min -1 for 30 min at ambient temperature using a miniature all-glass stripping vessel. Solvent vapours were then sorbed on a Tenax-TA trap and subsequently analysed by thermal desorption and gas chromatography—mass spectrometry. Recoveries of five types of common industrial hydrocarbon solvent mixtures at 10, 100, 1000 and 5000 μg 1 -1 in water were evaluated. Gasoline was included as a solvent as it is frequently used as an industrial cleaning and degreasing medium. The recoveries varied from 83.8 to 103.2% for gasoline and from 87.9 to 99.8% for hydrocarbon solvents such as kerosene and white spirit. Relative standard deviations between 2.8 and 9.6% were obtained for gasoline and between 2.2 and 8.9% for the remaining mixtures. The method has been used to detect traces of solvent mixtures as pollutants in industrial effluent streams and estuarine water, and more recently for investigating solvent contamination of potable water supplies.