BACKGROUND AND STUDY AIMS The unpleasant taste of the solution used for preparation before colonoscopy may limit patients' compliance with the procedure. However, the published results concerning the acceptability of sulfate-free electrolyte lavage solution (SF-ELS) for colon cleansing before colonoscopy are conflicting. The aim of this study was to compare SF-ELS with the standard polyethylene glycol (PEG) solution with regard to tolerance, effectiveness, and acceptability. PATIENTS AND METHODS In the first part of the study, 24 patients were assigned to receive either one liter of SF-ELS or one liter of the standard PEG solution. After two hours, the patients had to choose two further liters (of either the first or second solution), and preparation for colonoscopy was completed. In the second part, fifty further patients were randomized into two groups: 25 patients received four liters of standard solution, and 25 patients received four liters of SF-ELS. The patients' opinions regarding the preparation and their willingness to repeat the use of the same preparation were recorded by questionnaire. The quality of the colon preparation was assessed by the endoscopists. RESULTS Seventeen patients (71%; P < 0.05) preferred SF-ELS. The compliance rate in the two groups was 96%, and the frequency of occurrence of adverse effects was also similar. Colonoscopy was completed in 24 of the 25 patients in the SF-ELS group and 22 of the 25 patients in the standard PEG group (the difference was not significant). Visualization of the mucosa in the areas explored was perfect in 20 of the 25 patients in the SF-ELS group and in 17 of the 25 patients in the PEG group (not significant). Patients had a significant preference for SF-ELS. Eighteen of the 25 patients in the SF-ELS group were willing to accept the same preparation for a further colonoscopy, compared with 11 of the 25 in the other group (P < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS Improving the acceptability of colonic preparation before colonoscopy could improve patients' compliance and the quality of the follow-up. The results of this study justify further investigation of SF-ELS.