This study compared the performance of cement kiln dust (CKD) as industrial byproduct and commercially activated carbon (AC) as adsorbent derived from agricultural waste for the removal of cadmium (Cd2+) from aqueous solutions. CKD and AC were characterized by Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and surface areas demonstrate the differences of physicochemical properties. Batch equilibrium experiments were conducted for various intervals extended to 96 h at 20, 25 and 30°C to investigate the efficiency of the sorbents in the removal of Cd2+. CKD expressed high affinity for removal of Cd2+ and was not affected by temperature, while AC was significantly affected, which reflects dissimilarity in the retention mechanisms defendant in CKD and those pursued by AC. The results were explained by changes of FTIR and SEM images before and after sorption experiments. The suggestion is that electrostatic ion exchange and complex reactions are the main mechanisms for Cd2+ removal. The kinetic data were evaluated by fractional power, Elovich, pseudo-first order and pseudo-second-order kinetic models. The pseudo-second-order kinetic model was found to correlate with the experimental data well. These results revealed that CKD can be used as a cost-effective and efficient sorbent for Cd2+ removal in comparison with AC.