Five palygorskite samples with different chemical compositions and specific surface areas (SSA) were used for this study. Batch experiments in dilute salt solutions under neutral conditions were conducted to study the kinetics of clay hydrolysis. The rates of release of Mg and Si differ significantly among the palygorskite samples. It was found that differences in release rate of Mg among the palygorskite samples are due to differences in both surface area and chemical composition. The rate of release of Mg was greater in palygorskites with high SSA and high Mg and Fe contents than that in palygorskites with low SSA and high Al content. The rate of release of Si depends on the SSA of the mineral and is not related to chemical composition. The initial amount of Si released increases with SSA, while the Si rate of release decreases with increasing SSA. These data suggest that the decomposition of palygorskite in soils and sediments also takes place under neutral conditions.