Abstract Cobalt nanoparticles prepared at room temperature from cobalt sulphate and tetrabutyl ammonium bromide as surfactant have been found to be effective oxidation catalysts. Palladium and platinum nanoparticles (average size 4–6 nm) can also be prepared from PdCl2 and K2 PtCl4, respectively, using the same surfactant but require high temperature (~120 ºC) and much longer preparation time. Agglomeration of nanoparticles prepared from metals like palladium and platinum in common solvents, however, restricts their use as catalysts. It is therefore our endeavour to find the right combination of catalyst and solvent that will be beneficial from industrial point of view. Magnetic property measurement of cobalt nanoclusters was made using SQUID to identify their reusability nature. Herein, we report the use of cobalt nanoparticles (average size 90–95 nm) in dichloro-methane solvent as effective reusable catalysts for aerobic oxidation of a variety of alcohols. © Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016.