The method of the present invention is adapted to manipulate the chemical properties of water in order to improve the effectiveness of a desired chemical process. The method involves heating the water in the vessel to subcritical temperatures between 100.degree. to 374.degree. C. while maintaining sufficient pressure to the water to maintain the water in the liquid state. Various physiochemical properties of the water can be manipulated including polarity, solute solubility, surface tension, viscosity, and the disassociation constant. The method of the present invention has various uses including extracting organics from solids and semisolids such as soil, selectively extracting desired organics from nonaqueous liquids, selectively separating organics using sorbent phases, enhancing reactions by controlling the disassociation constant of water, cleaning waste water, and removing organics from water using activated carbon or other suitable sorbents.