In the process of wastewater treatment hydrolysis of polymeric substances is the first and rate-limiting step. A closer study of the enzymes catalysing these reactions is essential for a better understanding of the microbial activity in the wastewater treatment process. Therefore, development of gentle and efficient enzyme extraction methods from environmental samples is very important. In this study we present a method for the extraction of lipases and proteases from activated sludge using the non-ionic detergent Triton X-100, EDTA, and cation exchange resin (CER), alone or in combination for the extraction of lipases and proteases from activated sludge. The sludge was continuously stirred in the presence of either buffer alone or in the presence of detergent and/or chelating agents. In all cases, a marked reduction in floc size was observed upon continuous stirring. However, no lipase activity and negligible protease activity was extracted in the presence of buffer alone, indicating that enzyme extraction was not due to shear force alone. The highest lipase activity was extracted using 0.1% Triton X-100 above which the activity was gradually decreasing. For proteases, the highest activity was obtained in the presence of 0.5% Triton X-100 and no decrease in activity was observed. Differences observed in the extraction efficiency of the two enzymes indicate the need for optimisation of the extraction process for the different enzymes or the extracellular polymeric substances from activated sludge. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.