Abstract Several strains belonging to genera Pseudomonas and Achromobacter and characterized by the ability to degrade anionic surfactants were tested as potential bases of microbial biosensors for surfactant detection. For each strain the substrate specificity and stability of sensor signals were studied. The total amount of the substrates tested (including carbohydrates, alcohols, aromatics, organic acids, etc.) was equal to 60; the maximal signals were observed towards the anionic surfactants. The lower limit of detection for sodium dodecyl sulfate used as a model surfactant was in the field of 1 μM for all the strains. The created microbial biosensor model can extend the practical possibilities for rapid evaluation of surfactants in water media.