Abstract An optical sensor for Hg(II) monitoring using a complex of zinc dithizonate immobilised on XAD 7 which is based on reflectance spectrophotometry has been developed in this study. Measurements were made using a kinetic approach whereby the reflectance signal is measured at a fixed time of 5 min. The sensor could be regenerated using a saturated solution of KCl in 1 M sulphuric acid. The sensor was found to have an optimum response at pH 3.0 with respective measurement repeatability and probe-to-probe reproducibility of 1.53% and 5.26%. A linear response was observed in the Hg(II) concentration range of 0.0–180.0 ppm with a calculated limit of detection (LOD) of 0.05 ppm. The results obtained for aqueous Hg(II) determination using this probe were found to be comparable with the well-established method of atomic absorption spectrometry.