New methods aimed at extraction and identification of contaminants and trace compounds are critical for a number of technological areas that greatly impact our society. Current methods to extract bulk or trace compounds from various sources often use volatile organic compounds or exhaustive treatment processes that also tend to destroy important chemical signatures needed for identification of contaminants. We have utilized ionic liquid extractants that are non-toxic and non-flammable, and that can quantitatively remove dissolved organic and inorganic contaminants from aqueous systems and solids. Additionally, complete recovery of trace analytes can be immediately followed by isolation and identification through standard analytical methods. The versatility of these new liquid extractants therefore provides a high-yielding recovery and single-pot approach to enhance identification of water contaminants and aid in forensic investigation.