The self-assembling of sodium bis (2-ethylhexyl) sulfosuccinate (AOT) in gas phase has been investigated by electrospray ionization- and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry. Large surfactant clusters with an aggregation number close to that found in apolar media have been observed either as positive or negative ions. Moreover, the marked predominance of singly charged species as well as preliminary theoretical calculations strongly suggest an aggregate structure characterized by an internal hydrophilic core hosting the extra charge surrounded by an apolar shell constituted by the surfactant alkyl chains. This structure is similar to that of the more familiar reversed micelles formed when an appropriate surfactant is solubilized in apolar solvents. Finally, similar trends are observed independently either on the ionization technique or the polarity of the solvent used. This, together with the large dependence of the aggregation number on the flow rates, strongly indicates that self-assembling of the surfactant molecules occurs during the evaporation step. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.