AbstractThe mechanisms regarding the influence of dissolved organics in papermaking whitewater together with metal ions on the fouling of an ultrafiltration (UF) membrane were studied in this paper. A series of experiments were carried out to characterize the organic matters’ size and membrane flux. The associated fouling mechanism was investigated using the modified Hermia empirical model, resistance distribution, and specific resistance of the cake layer. The results indicated that the addition of metal ions aggravated membrane fouling. Increasing concentrations of metal ions resulted in the higher specific resistance of the cake layer and greater membrane fouling due to their chelation with dissolved organics. Increased pH values influenced the interaction between the metal ions and dissolved organics, resulting in a relatively slow membrane flux decline. Increasing concentrations of Na+ resulted in greater membrane fouling. Cake layer formation played a major role in treating the water samples with high-concentration metal ions, whereas intermediate blocking formation may be the dominant fouling mechanism when treating the solution without metal ions.