The potential of the H2O2/UV process for improving quality of an industrial textile effluent before biological treatment was evaluated in the laboratory using a multivariate experimental design to determine the effects of pH, H2O2 dose and reaction time on colour, COD and toxicity removal efficiencies. Increasing reaction time (from 10 to 120 min) and H2O2 dose (from 0 to 5 mmol L−1) significantly improved removal efficiencies, while increasing pH (from 4 to 10) had a negative effect on colour and toxicity removals. Laboratory H2O2/UV treatment of the mill effluent under optimum conditions (pH 7, 5 mmol L−1 H2O2, 120 min) resulted in decreases in colour (70%), COD (21%) and toxicity (67%), without lowering BOD. H2O2 was consumed within the first 30–60 min, while the effluent average oxidation state stabilized after 60 min. Decreasing reaction time to 60 min resulted in similar colour (63%) and COD (20%) removals but lower toxicity removal (44%). Spectrophotometric monitoring of the optimized reaction indicated partial destruction of residual aromatic azo dyes. H2O2 and residual peroxide and average oxidation state of the effluent Effluent biodegradability (BOD/COD) increased by 28% after the H2O2/UV treatment. Improvements observed in effluent quality are expected to enhance combined AOP-biological treatment efficiency of the mill effluent.