The chemical and sorption properties of clay minerals from the Mako area, Senegal, were investigated using FTIR spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy equipped with an X-ray energy dispersion spectrometer, thermal analysis and chemical analysis. The clay sample is essentially dominated by kaolinite and quartz as also shown by treatment with ethylene glycol and dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO). The clay fraction of this natural clay was organically modified by grafting with 3-aminopropyltriethoxysilane (APTES) in order to improve significantly its retention ability of heavy metals. The silane groups of the APTES reagent were partly grafted on the surface of platy kaolinite particles and the remaining ethoxy groups could be hydrolysed by aqueous treatment. The natural clay, its clay fraction and the organo-functionalized clay (with APTES) were investigated as adsorbents for the removal of Pb(II) from aqueous solutions. Evidence for an organic grafting has been demonstrated by comparing the spectroscopic characteristics of the natural clay and those of its chemically modified derivatives. The effects of different parameters (i.e. initial Pb(II) concentration and contact time) on the adsorption efficiency were studied. For an initial concentration of 10 mg L–1 Pb(II), the adsorption was maximized after 30 min contact time both for the raw material and its clay fraction and after 90 min for the APTES grafted clay. Although the maximum of sorption for the APTES grafted clay is reached with slower kinetics, this maximum amount of Pb(II) uptake at room temperature (Xmax) is significantly higher since it is 0.99 mg g–1 for the raw clay, 1.46 mg g–1 for its clay fraction and 3.02 mg g–1 for the organically modified clay, i.e. three times greater than the raw clay.