Abstract The harmful effects of contaminants on the ecosystems and humans are characterised by their environmental toxicity. The aim of this study was to assess applicability and reliability of several environmental toxicity tests, comparing the result of the whole soils and their water extracts. In the study real contaminated soils were applied from three different inherited contaminated sites of organic and inorganic pollutants. The measured endpoints were the bioluminescence inhibition of Vibrio fischeri (bacterium), the dehydrogenase activity inhibition of Azomonas agilis (bacterium), the reproduction inhibition of Tetrahymena pyriformis (protozoon), and Panagrellus redivivus (nematode), the mortality of Folsomia candida (springtail), the root and shoot elongation inhibition of Sinapis alba (plant: white mustard) and the nitrification activity inhibition of an uncontaminated garden soil used as “test organism”. Besides the standardised or widely used methods some new, direct contact ecotoxicity tests have been developed and introduced, which are useful for characterisation of the risk of contaminated soils due to their interactive nature. Soil no. 1 derived from a site polluted with transformer oil (PCB-free); Soil no. 2 originated from a site contaminated with mazout; Soil no. 3 was contaminated with toxic metals (Zn, Cd, Cu, Pb, As). In most cases, the interactive ecotoxicity tests indicated more harmful effect of the contaminated soil than the tests using soil extracts. The direct contact environmental toxicity tests are able to meet the requirements of environmental toxicology: reliability, sensibility, reproducibility, rapidity and low cost.