Adsorption is one of the most widely used processes in physicochemical operations. To design an adsorbent for a specific adsorbate, it is important to understand the interactions between adsorbents and adsorbates, which are very important for both adsorption capacity and selectivity. Electrostatic interactions, hydrogen bonding, hydrophobic interactions, complexation, and precipitation are comprehensively discussed. Adjusting solution pH and ionic strength is an effective method to improve the adsorption, especially when electrostatic and hydrophobic interactions are main interactions. With the increase in ionic strength, the hydrophobic interactions between adsorbents and adsorbates increase, while the electrostatic interactions decrease.