© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.A switchable solvent-based micro-extraction method for pre-concentration and separation of ultratrace palladium was developed prior to its flame atomic absorption spectrometric detection. Reverse change of hydrophilicity of N,N-dimethylcyclohexylamine (DMA) was achieved by reaction with carbonated water. The hydrophilic bicarbonate salt of the protonated DMA was used as extractant for palladium complexed with 2-(5-bromo-2-pyridylazo)-5-diethylaminophenol (5-Br-PADAP). Formation of the hydrophobic form of switchable solvent from hydrophilic form of switchable solvent phase was achieved by addition of sodium hydroxide into the extractant-sample solution. The effect of key parameters affected extraction recovery was studied and optimised by using Plackett–Burman design, central composite design and three dimension (3D) surfaces response. The calibration plot was linear in the range 0.015–1.6 mg L−1 of palladium with a correlation coefficient of 0.999. The limit of detections values of palladium for liquid and solid samples were 4.28 μg L−1 and 0.54 µg g−1, respectively. The pre-concentration factor was 37.5. The accuracy was confirmed by determination of palladium in certified reference material. The procedure was also applied for determination of palladium content of real samples as automotive catalytic converter, roadside dust, sea water and river water.