In order to hyphenate ion pairing chromatography and MS detection we used several types of formates as volatile ion pairing reagents (IPRs) instead of common tetraalkylammonium salts, as these salts tend to precipitate in the ion source. The formates were prepared by mixing formic acid with the corresponding amine. Both tributyl- and trihexylammonium formate proved to be valuable IPRs for the separation of acidic compounds like nitrobenzoic acids, nitrobenzenesulfonic acids and nitrated phenols. Due to the weaker retention of the ion-pairs with trialkylammonium formates compared with tetraalkylammonium compounds, either less organic modifier or a higher concentration of the IPR had to be used. With negative atmospheric pressure chemical ionization mass spectrometry and electrospray ionization mass spectrometry it was possible to unambiguously identify several acidic oxidation products of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) in ammunition wastewater and soil extracts. 2-amino-4,6-dinitrobenzoic acid was often found to be the main metabolite of TNT in such water samples.