The possibilities of separating monovalent and multivalent ions by electrodialysis (ED) and nanofiltration (NF) are explored. Five synthetic single salt solutions were applied to ED and NF: NaCl, Na2SO4, MgCL2, MgSO4 and NaNO3. Two combinations of anionic and cationic exchange membranes were evaluated for ED (AMV/CMV Selemion membranes and ACS/CMS Tokuyama membranes), and two membranes were evaluated for NF (NTR 7450 and UTC-60). The separation was evaluated using an alternative parameter, the separation efficiency, in order to compare ED and NF. The separation efficiency ranges from 0% (no separation) to 100% (perfect separation). Both NF membranes had a good separation efficiency for the separation of monovalent and divalent anions (ca. 60%); the ED membranes performed worse. For the separation of monovalent and divalent cations, the UTC-60 membrane was the best for the considered separation because of size exclusion effects for the larger divalent ion. The ACS/CMS membranes had a similar separation efficiency (ca. 60%); the NTR 7540 membrane and AMV/CMV ED membranes showed only a small separation. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.