Rapid and inexpensive sensing of explosive traces in soil and post-blast debris for environmental and criminological purposes with optical sensors has recently gained importance. The developed sensing method for nitro-aromatic and nitramine-based explosives is based on dropping an acetone solution of the analyte to an adsorbent surface, letting the solvent to dry, spraying an analytical reagent to produce a persistent spot, and indirectly measuring its reflectance by means of a miniature spectrometer. This method proved to be useful for on-site determination of nitro-aromatics (trinitrotoluene (TNT), 2,4,6-trinitrophenylmethylnitramine (tetryl) and dinitrotoluene (DNT)) and nitramines (1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazacyclohexane (RDX) and octahydro-1,3,5,7-tetranitro-1,3,5,7-tetrazocine (HMX)) pre-adsorbed on a poly vinyl chloride (PVC) surface, with the use of different spray reagents for each group of explosives producing different colors. The calibration equations of the tested compounds as reflectance vs. concentration showed excellent linearity (correlation coefficient: 0.998-0.999). The linear quantification interval in terms of absolute quantity of analyte was 0.1-0.5 mu g. The developed method was successfully tested for the analysis of military explosives Comp B and Octol, and was validated against high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). The reflectometric sensing method could also be used for qualitative identification of the nitrated explosives on a chromatographic paper. The reagent-impregnated paper could also serve as sensor, enabling semi-quantitative determinations of TNT and tetryl. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.