Enterobacter cloacae, like most enteric bacteria, can grow in the presence of 10% sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS). The bacteria tolerate the detergent and do not metabolize it. In a defined glucose-salts medium the growth rate remained unchanged (G = 55 min) as the detergent concentration was increased from 0 to 10% SDS. However, growth in SDS exhibited a two-part energy dependence. In part 1, the SDS-grown cells underwent rapid lysis when they ran out of energy. Cells that had entered stationary phase owing to carbon limitation lysed, while those that had entered owing to nitrogen or phosphorus limitation did not. We attribute part 1 of the energy dependence to SDS as a detergent. In part 2, the cells grown in 5 or 10% SDS exhibited longer lag periods, potassium accumulation, decreased cell yields, and higher oxygen consumption. The higher oxygen consumption occurred during both exponential phase and nitrogen-limited stationary phase. However, the decreased cell yield and higher oxygen consumption of SDS-grown cells were mimicked by cells grown in equivalent concentrations of sucrose or polyethylene glycol. We attribute part 2 of the energy dependence to SDS as a solute. Finally, with regard to the as yet unidentified bacterial osmotic stress detector, we used the micelle-forming nature of SDS to conclude that the detector was responding to turgor pressure-water activity rather than to osmolarity itself.