A significant proportion of the total nutrient in soil solution can be bound to organic molecules and these often constitute a major loss from soil to freshwater. Our purpose was to determine whether chemical extractants used for measuring inorganic N could also be used to quantify dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) and carbon (DOC) in soil. In a range of soils, DOC and DON were extracted with either distilled water or 2 M KCl and the amount recovered compared with that present in soil solution recovered by centrifugal-drainage. The recovery of DON and DOC from soil was highly dependent upon the method of extraction. Factors such as soil sampling strategy (number of samples over space and time), sample preparation (sieving and drying), soil storage, extraction temperature, shaking time, and soil-to-extractant volume ratio all significantly affected the amount of DOC and DON extracted from soil. To allow direct comparison between independent studies we therefore propose the introduction of a standardized extraction procedure: Replicate samples of unsieved, field-moist soil extracted as soon as possible after collection with distilled water, 0.5 M K2SO4 or 2 M KCl at a 1:5 w/v ratio for 1 h at 20 °C.