Heat transfer studies of a hot AISI 304 stainless steel plate by water jet impingement with different concentrations of three different types of surfactants have been investigated. The study involves a square plate of 100 mm × 100 mm surface area and 6 mm thickness with three subsurface thermocouples positioned at various locations inside the plate. The influence of jet height has been studied by varying the distance between the nozzle and plate from 200 mm to 600 mm. The results show that the heat transfer rate is found to increase with the jet height up to 400 mm and thereafter decreases due to capillary instability of liquid jet. Based on the maximum surface heat flux obtained for a particular nozzle height of 400 mm and an initial surface temperature of 900 °C, further experiments have been carried out with different types of surfactants. The types of surfactants used in the experimental study are anionic surfactant (sodium dodecyl sulphate, SDS), cationic surfactant (cetyltrimethylammonium bromide, CTAB) and nonionic surfactant (Polyoxyethylene 20 sorbitan monolaurate, Tween 20). During cooling, the transient temperature data measured by thermocouples have been analyzed by inverse heat conduction procedure to calculate surface heat flux and surface temperatures. The increase in surface heat flux has been observed with increasing concentration of surfactants and it has been found to be limited to a particular concentration of surfactant after which further increase in concentration leads to decrease in heat flux. Use of surfactant added water minimizes the surface tension and promotes better spreadability of coolant on the test specimen by reducing the solid–liquid contact angle. The maximum heat transfer rate has been found by using nonionic surfactant additive which can primarily be attributed to its lesser foam formability nature.