Abstract A flow injection (FI) micelle-mediated separation/preconcentration procedure for the determination of lead and cadmium by flame atomic absorption spectrometry (FAAS) has been proposed. The analytes reacted with 1-(2-thiazolylazo)-2-naphthol (TAN) to form hydrophobic chelates, which were extracted into the micelles of 0.05% (w/v) Triton X-114 in a solution buffered at pH 8.4. In the preconcentration stage, the micellar solution was continuously injected into a flow system with four mini-columns packed with cotton, glass wool, or TNT compresses for phase separation. The analytes-containing micelles were eluted from the mini-columns by a stream of 3 mol L −1 HCl solution and the analytes were determined by FAAS. Chemical and flow variables affecting the preconcentration of the analytes were studied. For 15 mL of preconcentrated solution, the enhancement factors varied between 15.1 and 20.3, the limits of detection were approximately 4.5 and 0.75 μg L −1 for lead and cadmium, respectively. For a solution containing 100 and 10 μg L −1 of lead and cadmium, respectively, the R.S.D. values varied from 1.6 to 3.2% ( n = 7). The accuracy of the preconcentration system was evaluated by recovery measurements on spiked water samples. The method was susceptible to matrix effects, but these interferences were minimized by adding barium ions as masking agent in the sample solutions, and recoveries from spiked sample varied in the range of 95.1–107.3%.