In this paper, spinel ferrite with high crystallinity and high saturation magnetization was successfully prepared from steel pickling sludge by adding iron source and precipitator in the hydrothermal condition. The obtained spinel ferrite was characterized by X-ray diffraction (XRD), field emission scanning electron microscopy (FE-SEM), vibrating sample magnetometer (VSM), and Zeta potential methods and investigated as an adsorbent for removal of Pb2+ from aqueous solution. Batch experiments were performed by varying the pH values, contact time, temperature and initial metal concentration. The result of pH impact showed that the adsorption of Pb2+ was a pH dependent process, and the pH 5.8 ± 0.2 was found to be the optimum condition. The achieved experimental data were analyzed with various kinetic and isotherm models. The kinetic studies revealed that Pb2+ adsorption onto spinel ferrite followed a pseudo-second order model, and the Langmuir isotherm model provided the perfect fit to the equilibrium experimental data. At different temperatures, the maximum Pb2+ adsorption capacities calculated from the Langmuir equation were in the range of 126.5–175.4 mg/g, which can be in competition with other adsorbents. The thermodynamic results showed that the spinel ferrite could spontaneously and endothermically adsorb Pb2+ from aqueous solution. The regeneration studies showed that spinel ferrite could be used five times (removal efficiency (%) >90%) by desorption with HNO3 reagent.