A simple, uniform procedure has been developed for microwave-based digestion of fly ash samples collected from the hoppers of an electrostatic precipitator (ESP), or collected from flue gases on a heat-resistant quartz fibre filter and for subsequent atomic absorption spectrometric analysis of trace metals (Be, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Mn, Ni, Pb, V and Zn). HNO3, HCl, HF and mixtures have been tested as digestion acids. The combination of HNO3 and HF has been found to be efficient for the digestion of fly ash samples with and without quartz fibre filter material. In spite of the complicated matrix, results with satisfactory accuracy and precision (relative standard deviation below 10% for most of the elements) have been obtained. In the case of analysis of fly ash together with a quartz fibre filter, the calibration curve has to be determined by standard addition to a blank solution containing a dissolved blank quartz fibre filter.