The electrochemical oxidation of anionic (sodium dodecylbenzenesulfonate) and cationic (hexadecyltrimethyl ammonium chloride) aqueous dilute,surfactant solutions at a BDD (boron-doped diamond) electrode has been studied by batch electrolysis experiments and potentiodynamic measurements. In the potential region of water decomposition (E > 2.3 V vs. SHE), surfactants could be deactivated and oxidised with total organic carbon (TOC) removals up to 82% by the action of intermediates of water discharge (e.g. hydroxyl radicals). Of the investigated process parameters, the initial electrolyte pH had the highest impact on surfactant oxidation. An initial pH of 10 significantly enhanced the electrochemical oxidation of both surfactants. The process was not diffusion-controlled and instantaneous current efficiencies (ICE) for TOC removal were in all cases low, varying from 5 to 12% oil average. The surfactant deactivation and oxidation potential of the BDD electrode was compared with other carbon-based electrodes. Applying an equal electrode surface, the BDD electrode showed much higher surfactant removals compared to plane graphite. Graphite granules and carbon felt suffered from abrasion, leading to additional carbon loading of the surfactant solutions. Based on the current electrolysis configuration, the specific energy requirement with the BDD electrode for the electrochemical oxidation of surfactants was estimated at 10-20 kW h m(-3) effective wastewater. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.