Current antibiofilm solutions based on planktonic bacterial physiology have limited efficacy in clinical and occasionally environmental settings. This has prompted a search for suitable alternatives to conventional therapies. This study compares the inhibitory properties of two biological surfactants (rhamnolipids and a plant-derived surfactant) against a selection of broad-spectrum antibiotics (ampicillin, chloramphenicol and kanamycin). Testing was carried out on a range of bacterial physiologies from planktonic and mixed bacterial biofilms. Rhamnolipids (Rhs) have been extensively characterised for their role in the development of biofilms and inhibition of planktonic bacteria. However, there are limited direct comparisons with antimicrobial substances on established biofilms comprising single or mixed bacterial strains. Baseline measurements of inhibitory activity using planktonic bacterial assays established that broad-spectrum antibiotics were 500 times more effective at inhibiting bacterial growth than either Rhs or plant surfactants. Conversely, Rhs and plant biosurfactants reduced biofilm biomass of established single bacterial biofilms by 74–88 and 74–98 %, respectively. Only kanamycin showed activity against biofilms of Bacillus subtilis and Staphylococcus aureus. Broad-spectrum antibiotics were also ineffective against a complex biofilm of marine bacteria; however, Rhs and plant biosurfactants reduced biofilm biomass by 69 and 42 %, respectively. These data suggest that Rhs and plantderived surfactants may have an important role in the inhibition of complex biofilms.