The addition of simple inorganic salts to aqueous enzyme solutions prior to lyophilization results in a dramatic activation of the dried powder in organic media relative to enzyme with no added salt. Activation of both the serine protease subtilisin Carlsberg and lipase from Mucor javanicus resulting from lyophilization in the presence of KCl was highly sensitive to the lyophilization time and water content of the sample. Specifically, for a preparation containing 98% (w/w) KCl, 1% (w/w) phosphate buffer, and 1% (w/w) enzyme, varying the lyophilization time showed a direct correlation between water content and activity up to an optimum, beyond which the activity decreased with increasing lyophilization time. The catalytic efficiency in hexane varied as much as 13-fold for subtilisin Carlsberg and 11-fold for lipase depending on the lyophilization time. This dependence was apparently a consequence of including the salt, as a similar result was not observed for the enzyme freeze-dried without KCl. In the case of subtilisin Carlsberg, the salt-induced optimum value of kcat/Km for transesterification in hexane was over 20,000-fold higher than that for salt-free enzyme, a substantial improvement over the previously reported enhancement of 3750-fold (Khmelnitsky, 1994). As was found previously for pure enzyme, the salt-activated enzyme exhibited greatest activity when lyophilized from a solution of pH equal to the pH for optimal activity in water. The active-site content of the lyophilized enzyme samples also depended upon lyophilization time and inclusion of salt, with opposite trends in this dependence observed for the solvents hexane and tetrahydrofuran. Finally, substrate selectivity experiments suggested that mechanism(s) other than selective partitioning of substrate into the enzyme–salt matrix are responsible for salt-induced activation of enzymes in organic solvents. © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Biotechnol Bioeng 63: 233–241, 1999.