A fast, convenient extraction method for lipopolysaccharide (LPS), using a commercial RNA isolating reagent, allows the isolation of LPS or lipid A from low milligram (dry weight) quantities of bacterial cells. The method avoids the use of specialized equipment and has been used for processing relatively large numbers of samples. The major components of the commercial RNA isolating reagent, Tri-Reagent, are phenol and guanidinium thiocyanate in aqueous solution. The bacterial cell membranes are disrupted with guanidinium thiocyanate, which eliminates the need for mechanical cell disruption (e.g. French press) or heating. LPS and its degradation products, with particular attention paid to its bioactive lipid A portion, were measured and compared with those from the most common conventional extraction method, hot phenol-water. Negative ion quadrupole ion trap and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry, fatty acid composition analysis by capillary gas chromatography, total and free phosphate by UV spectrophotometry and sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) showed that LPS and lipid A isolated using the Tri-Reagent approach were cleaner and suffered less degradation through loss of phosphate and (or) fatty acyl side chains from lipid A. The Tri-Reagent extraction method generated low free phosphate contamination, 11% of the total phosphate concentration, whereas the hot phenol-water extraction method gave approximately 58% as free, inorganic phosphate. Similar results were observed for the degradation of fatty acyl side chains. The time required by the new method is considerably shorter (two or three days) than that required by conventional hot phenol-water extraction (about two weeks).