Abstract Pentachlorophenol (PCP) dissipation occurs naturally in flooded soils and although dissipation half-lives vary between soil profiles at the millimeter-scale the reason is poorly understood. Vertical variations of PCP dissipation were investigated in three typical Chinese paddy soils; Soil 1 (Umbraqualf), Soil 2 (Plinthudult) and Soil 3 (Tropudult). The soil depth was divided into a surface and a deep layer based upon different PCP dissipations in the surface layer of 40–93, 42–88 and 16–100% for Soils 1–3 respectively. In the deep layer, PCP was greatly dissipated in Soil 2, but much less in Soil 1 and Soil 3. Correlation analysis indicated that SO42− and Fe(III) were negatively related to PCP dissipation. SO42− and Cl- were highly mobile in the flooded soil profiles. Fe(III) reduction increased with increasing soil depth, and was inhibited by high SO42− concentrations.