Abstract Phenols are among the most common water pollutants present in industrial effluents. The phenol removal potential of clay, a low cost and abundantly available material has been investigated. In this regards sorption studies for phenol removal on clay were carried out under varying experimental condition of particle size, pH, and temperature. The equilibrium data could be described well by the Langmuir isotherm equation. Thermodynamics studied revealed that the sorption of phenol by clay is an endothermic process, showing increase in sorption at higher temperature. The negative values of standard free energy (Δ G 0) indicate the spontaneity of the sorption process. This study showed that clay could be used as an efficient sorbent material for the removal of phenol from aqueous solution.