Abstract The nano-attapulgite powder was treated by heating at 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 700 and 800 °C for 2 h in a muffle furnace. PTFE composites were prepared by compression molding PTFE and thermally treated nano-attapulgite. The friction and wear tests were performed on a block-on-ring wear tester. Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Energy-Dispersive X-ray Spectrometer (EDS) and Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) were utilized to investigate material microstructures and examine modes of failure. Experimental results showed that under all experimental conditions there was no significant change in coefficient of friction, but the wear rate of PTFE composites was orders of magnitude less than that of pure PTFE under same experimental conditions. Moreover, thermally treated attapulgite was superior to untreated attapulgite in enhancing the wear resistance of PTFE. In addition, the wear resistance increased monotonically with increasing treated attapulgite concentration. Hardness analysis revealed the hardness of PTFE composites increased with increasing content of treated attapulgite. Investigation of transfer film and analysis of debris for PTFE and its composites showed that thermally treated nano-attapulgite filled to PTFE could facilitate formation of transfer film on the steel ring surface and inhibit breakage of PTFE molecular chain. The composites with higher heat absorption capacity exhibited improved wear resistance. Furthermore, the steel ring counterface abrasion was not found.