Abstract Clay minerals are low cost materials that can be structurally modified and exploited for removal of natural organic matter from freshwaters. The present study shows that vermiculites modified by ion exchange with hexadecyltrimethylammonium or intercalation with poly(hydroxy iron) cations are potential adsorbents for removal of fulvic acid, whereas the adsorption on the raw clay mineral is negligible. The efficiency of the modified vermiculite was evaluated by measuring adsorption isotherms by the batch technique using initial fulvic acid concentrations between 2.5 and 50.0 mg L − 1 , with one hour of contact time. At least 94% of the fulvic acid initially present in a 20 mg L − 1 solution was sorbed onto either the intercalated poly(hydroxy iron) cations or the organically modified vermiculite. Up to an initial concentration of 5.0 mg L − 1 the adsorption is irreversible, and no quantifiable fulvic acid was measured in the desorption experiments. For initial fulvic acid concentrations between 10.0 and 50.0 mg L − 1 , desorption was between 2.3% and 4.9% for Fe(III) intercalated vermiculite, and between 1.4% and 9.2% for the organoclay. The adsorption percentages on intercalated poly(hydroxy iron) cations increased upon lowering pH and increasing the ionic strength, indicating the occurrence of strong binding mechanisms such as ligand exchange. Adsorption percentage of fulvic acid onto the organoclay also increased with lowering of pH, but in this case the adsorption percentages showed a small decrease at high ionic strength, suggesting that electrostatic attraction plays an important role in the adsorption process.