Abstract Geotextiles are often subject to different load types in their filtration applications. The load action can cause changes in soil density, geotextile stretching and flow interaction at the soil-geotextile interface. All of these load-induced changes to a geotextile may affect the filtration behaviour of the soil-geotextile system. The impact of load type on the filtration behaviour of soil-nonwoven geotextile combinations has been studied through a series of tests using an experimental apparatus designed specially for the laboratory tests. In these tests, the soil-geotextile combination was fabricated by inserting a piece of nonwoven geotextile between a 50 mm thick soil layer and a layer of steel beads. Two chemical-bonded nonwoven geotextiles were employed in this study. One of the three load types, namely sustained, pulsatory and a combination of both was applied to the combination prior to each filtration test. The frequency of the pulsatory load was 0.1 Hz and a total of 5000 cycles of repeated load applied to the combination for each load type test. After applying this specific type of load on a soil-geotextile combination, water was allowed to flow down through the combination from the soil into a drainage layer set at various hydraulic gradients. The flow rates corresponding to elapsed times were measured and the average hydraulic conductivity value was extracted by using Darcy’s law to characterize the filtration performance of the entire soil-geotextile combination. Variations in the average hydraulic conductivity value with respect to the soil void ratio, magnitude and type of normal load were examined. The experimental results revealed that the void ratio of soil decreased with the increase of total load. Although two parent geotextiles under study, namely GT1 and GT2, have similar filtration characteristics, soil-geotextile combinations composed of these two geotextiles exhibited different filtration responses to the normal load. Soil-GT1 combinations exhibited a normal relationship between the average hydraulic conductivity and the normal load applied; the average hydraulic conductivity increased with an increase in the total load. Soil-GT2 combinations exhibited different load-dependent responses to a normal load with the average hydraulic conductivity depending on the magnitude and type of load. Such load-dependent hydraulic conductivity changes are attributed mainly to the geotextile in-plane strain and the pumping action in the combination.