The present study investigated the efficiency and mechanisms of aqueous Pb(II), Cd(II), Zn(II) and As(V) adsorption on natural (H), calcined (HC), and acid-activated halloysite (HA). The XRD and FTIR measurements indicated that the aluminosilicate framework was not affected by high-temperature treatment, in contrast to acid activation, which led to structural changes mainly in the tetrahedral sheet. The sorption of cations on H sample was low, though it was most effective for As(V). The X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy results suggested that removal of As(V) might be related to its reduction to As(III) involving oxidation of Fe(II) present in the mineral structure and/or iron minerals. The calcination enhanced halloysite sorption capacity for cations, while the As(V) sorption decreased. This was due to partial dehydroxylation and the subsequent formation of additional active sites. The acid treatment induced selective adsorption of Pb(II).