A method to quantify sub-ppm levels of formaldehyde in acetone has been developed and it is reported here. In this method, the different reactivities and stabilities of sulfite with formaldehyde and acetone are used to separate the two carbonyl compounds. Sulfite reacts with formaldehyde to form hydroxymethanesulfonate (HMS), the non-volatile and stable nature of which allows its separation from bulk acetone solvent. The resulting HMS is then converted back to formaldehyde under basic conditions, and formaldehyde is derivatized with 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine (DNPH) and quantified in its DNP hydrazone form using high-performance liquid chromatography-UV detection. The method detection limit at the 99% confidence level was 0.051 mg L(-1). A batch of samples can be processed within 4 h. The method has been applied to quantify the amount of formaldehyde in an analytical-grade acetone and in a commercial nail polish remover and the level of formaldehyde was found to be 0.175 and 0.184 mg L(-1), respectively.