Abstract A series of spin probes was employed to examine the behavior of the detergent sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) at concentrations above and below the critical micelle concentration (cmc). The existence of detergent aggregates below the cmc was evidenced by the appearance of composite electron spin resonance (ESR) spectra for probes that have measurable solubility in water. The spectra were indicative of two probe populations: one in an aqueous environment and another in detergent aggregates. The ESR spectra of probes which are highly insoluble in water exhibited line broadening due to intermolecular spin exchange interactions, indicating that the probes were concentrated in detergent aggregates present below the experimental cmc. The results are discussed in terms of their significance for the study of the mechanisms of micelle formation and for the detection of detergent aggregates at very low concentrations.