Current guidelines recommend under 2 g/day sodium intake in chronic kidney disease, but there are a few studies relating sodium intake to long-term outcomes. Here we evaluated the association of mean baseline 24-h urinary sodium excretion with kidney failure and a composite outcome of kidney failure or all-cause mortality using Cox regression in 840 participants enrolled in the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease Study. Mean 24-h urinary sodium excretion was 3.46 g/day. Kidney failure developed in 617 participants, and the composite outcome was reached in 723. In the primary analyses, there was no association between 24-h urine sodium and kidney failure (HR 0.99 (95% CI 0.91-1.08)) nor on the composite outcome (HR 1.01 (95% CI 0.93-1.09)), each per 1 g/day higher urine sodium. In exploratory analyses, there was a significant interaction of baseline proteinuria and sodium excretion with kidney failure. Using a two-slope model, when urine sodium was under 3 g/day, higher urine sodium was associated with increased risk of kidney failure in those with baseline proteinuria under 1 g/day and with lower risk of kidney failure in those with baseline proteinuria of ⩾ 1 g/day. There was no association between urine sodium and kidney failure when urine sodium was ⩾ 3 g/day. Results were consistent using first baseline and time-dependent urinary sodium excretion. Thus, we noted no association of urine sodium with kidney failure. Results of the exploratory analyses need to be verified in additional studies and the mechanism explored.