To evaluate the potential effectiveness of kaolin clay liners in storage of fluoride contaminated waste, an experimental study of the sorption and desorption behaviour of fluoride in kaolin clay was conducted. The degree of fluoride sorption by kaolin was found to depend on solution pH and available fluoride concentration with equilibrium being achieved within 24 h. A site activation process involving the uptake of fluoride was also observed at the initial stages of sorption. This behaviour was attributed to a layer expansion process of the clay during sorption. The maximum fluoride sorption capacity was found to be 18.3 meq/100 g at pH 6 and 8.6 meq/100 g at pH 7. A competitive Langmuir sorption isotherm where sorption is dependant on both pH and fluoride concentration is employed to characterise the experimental sorption and desorption data. The sorption and desorption isotherms revealed pronounced hysteretic behaviour. The model fitting experimental results suggests that 75% of fluoride sorbed is irreversibly bound. (C) 1997 Elsevier Science B.V.