Polar organic solvents such as methanol or N-methylformamide inactivate lipases. Although ionic liquids such as 3-alkyl-1-methylimidazolium tetrafluoroborates have polarities similar to these polar organic solvents, they do not inactivate lipases. To get reliable lipase-catalyzed reactions in ionic liquids, we modified their preparation by adding a wash with aqueous sodium carbonate. Lipase-catalyzed reactions that previously did not occur in untreated ionic liquids now occur at rates comparable to those in nonpolar organic solvents such as toluene. Acetylation of 1-phenylethanol catalyzed by lipase from Pseudomonas cepacia (PCL) was as fast and as enantioselective in ionic liquids as in toluene. Ionic liquids permit reactions in a more polar solvent than previously possible. Acetylation of glucose catalyzed by lipase B from Candida antarctica (CAL-B) was more regioselective in ionic liquids because glucose is up to one hundred times more soluble in ionic liquids. Acetylation of insoluble glucose in organic solvents yielded the more soluble 6-O-acetyl glucose, which underwent further acetylation to give 3,6-O-diacetyl glucose (2-3:1 mixture). However, acetylation of glucose in ionic liquids yielded only 6-O-acetyl glucose (> 13:1 and up to > 50:1).