Electrochemical methods are being used increasingly as an alternative treatment process for the remediation of textile wastewaters. This study focused mainly on the colour removal and chemical oxygen demand (COD) reduction of vat textile dye (CI Vat Blue 1: indigo) from its aqueous solution by electrochemical oxidation. The process was carried out in a batch-type divided electrolytic cell under constant potential using a Pt cage as anode and Pt foil as cathode. Operating variables such as supporting electrolyte, pH, ultrasonification and treatment time were investigated to probe their effects on the efficiency of the electrochemical treatment. Colour removal was estimated by monitoring the disappearance of the absorbance peak at 681.5 nm. It was found that in acidic conditions the electrolysis was more efficient. At pH 1, an NaCl concentration of 0.24 mol dm(-3), a dyeing solution concentration of 0.1% (w/v) and a period of 90 min of electrolysis, there was almost 100% colour removal and 60% reduction in COD. Voltammetric and IR investigations demonstrated that partial degradation of dye was achieved. The experimental results indicate that this electrochemical method could effectively be used as a pretreatment stage before conventional treatment. (c) 2005 Society of Chemical Industry.