Systematic adsorption tests were carried out to determine the uptake of typical quaternary amines, dodecyltrimethylammonium bromide and hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide and a primary amine, dodecylamine hydrochloride by sepiolite. Bottle adsorption tests conducted with untreated, acid- and heat-activated sepiolites exhibit two distinct regions. The first stage is characterized by low rate and governed through an ion exchange process between ammonium ions and magnesium ions in the octahedral sheet. The second stage is ascribed to a combination of chain-chain interactions through Van der Waals forces and ion exchange process, Despite several-fold increases in surface areas upon activation, surprisingly no improvement in adsorption is observed. The observed differences are explained on the basis of partial collapse of the sepiolite crystal structure, the removal of zeolitic and bound waters and modification of the pore size distribution of sepiolite upon treatments. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.