Anomalous surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) peaks were identified for liquid sample stored in polypropylene (PP) centrifuge tubes for months. We observed unexpected Raman peaks during experiments with thiamine hydrochloride aqueous solutions stored in PP tubes for 2 months. In order to identify the contaminants, we have performed SERS experiments on deionized (DI) water stored in PP centrifuge tubes for 2 months and compared them with those from fresh DI water sample. We have also carried out ultraviolet (UV) absorption spectra for both fresh and contaminated water. We believe that the water is contaminated because of chemicals leaching from the PP tube. From the gas chromatography-mass spectrometry data, the main contaminants were found to be phthalic acid (PA) and its derivatives. Further SERS and UV absorption experiment for PA correlated well with the anomalous peaks identified earlier. We qualitatively confirmed the identification and quantitatively estimated the concentration of the suspect contaminants as between 1 and 10 µM with both SERS and UV absorption spectroscopy. With UV absorption spectroscopy, we precisely estimated the concentration as 2.1 µM. We have shown that the sample in PP tube can be contaminated by the leaching chemicals upon long-term storage, and suggest SERS and UV absorption spectroscopy as two quick and simple techniques to detect the contamination. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.