The clay minerals montmorillonite and kaolinite protected bacteria, including actinomycetes, and filamentous fungi from the inhibitory effects of cadmium (Cd). Montmorillonite provided greater protection than did equivalent concentrations of kaolinite. The protective ability of the clays was correlated with their cation exchange capacity (CEC). The greater the CEC, the greater the absorbancy of exogenous Cd by the exchange complex and the greater the protection. The greater protection afforded by montmorillonite, as compared to kaolinite, was correlated with its higher CEC. Clays homoionic to Cd did not protect against exogenous Cd, as the exchange complex was already saturated with Cd. Montmorillonite homoionic to Cd was more detrimental to microbial growth than was kaolinite homoionic to Cd, as more Cd was present on and apparently desorbed from the montmorillonite.