Abstract The results of laboratory experiments aimed at determining the influence of physicochemical parameters on the adsorption of etheramine (adsorbate) on white, pink and yellow kaolinites (adsorbent) are presented. The adsorption of etheramine was favoured at pH 10.0 under conditions where the initial concentration of etheramine was 200 mg l −1 and the ratio of adsorbent to volume of etheramine solution was 1:100 g ml −1. Equilibrium adsorption was attained within 30 min and the efficiencies of removal of etheramine by white, pink and yellow kaolinite were 77%, 80% and 69%, respectively. The adsorption isotherms of the kaolinites were determined under optimum conditions and with adsorbate in the concentration range of 0–4000 mg l −1. The amounts of etheramine adsorbed per unit mass of adsorbent were 33.03, 34.32 and 23.11 mg g −1 for white, pink and yellow kaolinites, respectively. The adsorption of etheramine on kaolinites was better fitted to the Langmuir rather than the Freundlich isotherm, and could be explained by a pseudo-second-order kinetic model. It is concluded that kaolinites offer significant potential in the treatment of effluents originating from the processing of lower grade iron ores by froth flotation.