Abstract Waste activated sludge (WAS) is difficult to degrade in anaerobic digestion systems and pretreatments have been shown to speed up the hydrolysis stage. Here the effects of acid pretreatment (pH 6-1) using HCl on subsequent digestion and dewatering of WAS have been investigated. Optimisation of acid dosing was performed considering digestibility benefits and level of acid required. Pretreatment to pH 2 was concluded to be the most effective. In batch digestion this yielded the same biogas after 13 days as compared to untreated WAS at 21 days digestion. In semi-continuous digestion experiments (12 day hydraulic retention time at 35°C) it resulted in a 14.3% increase in methane yield compared to untreated WAS, also Salmonella was eradicated in the digestate. Dewatering investigations suggested that the acid pretreated WAS required 40% less cationic polymer addition to achieve the same cake solid content. A cost analysis was also carried out. Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.