Our ability to accurately simulate the transport and retention of colloids in the vadose zone is currently limited by our lack of basic understanding of colloid retention processes that occur at the pore scale. This review discusses our current knowledge of physical and chemical mechanisms, factors, and models of colloid transport and retention at the interface, collector, and pore scales. The interface scale is well suited for studying the interaction energy and hydrodynamic forces and torques that act on colloids near interfaces. Solid surface roughness is reported to have a significant influence on both adhesive and applied hydrodynamic forces and torques, whereas non-Derjaguin–Landau–Verwey–Overbeek (DLVO) forces such as hydrophobic and capillary forces are likely to play a significant role in colloid interactions with the air–water interface. The flow field can be solved and mass transfer processes can be quantified at the collector scale. Here the potential for colloid attachment in the presence of hydrodynamic forces is determined from a balance of applied and adhesive torques. The fraction of the collector surface that contributes to attachment has been demonstrated to depend on both physical and chemical conditions. Processes of colloid mass transfer and retention can also be calculated at the pore scale. Differences in collector- and pore-scale studies occur as a result of the presence of small pore spaces that are associated with multiple interfaces and zones of relative flow stagnation. Here a variety of straining processes may occur in saturated and unsaturated systems, as well as colloid size exclusion. Our current knowledge of straining processes is still incomplete, but recent research indicates a strong coupling of hydrodynamics, solution chemistry, and colloid concentration on these processes, as well as a dependency on the size of the colloid, the solid grain, and the water content.