In the polluted atmosphere, sulphur dioxide (SO2) reacts with calcite (CaCO3) in marble producing calcium sulphite hemihydrate (CaSO3.0.5 H2O) and gypsum (CaSO4.2H(2)O). Gypsum develops crust at rain-sheltered surfaces and then, being more soluble, accelerates erosion at areas exposed to rain. Eventually, all these lead to significant deformations in the appearance and structure of marble surfaces. Clearly, some precautions must be taken to stop or at least to slow down this deterioration process which destroys our cultural heritage. In this study, we have investigated the possibilities of preventing the SO2-marble reaction by using water-soluble surfactants: Abil Quat 3270 and Tween 20. Experiments for measuring their effects have been carried out at conditions simulating the dry deposition of SO2. Infrared spectrometry and scanning electron microscopy were used to analyze the mineralogical composition and morphology of the reaction products. The extent of sulphation reaction was calculated by determining calcium sulphite hemihydrate and gypsum quantitatively by an IR approach and also by weight increases observed during the progress of SO2-marble reaction. A 10% decrease is observed in the total sulphation with both surfactant applications. The results have been discussed in relation to the possible stages of sulphation. reaction and surface reactions of calcite. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.