In this study, Fe(III) and Cr(III) metal ion adsorption processes were carried out with three adsorbents in batch experiments and their adsorption performance was compared. These adsorbents were sesame stalk without pretreatment, bio-char derived from thermal decomposition of biomass, and activated carbon which was obtained from chemical activation of biomass. Scanning electron microscopy and Fourier transform–infrared techniques were used for characterization of adsorbents. The optimum conditions for the adsorption process were obtained by observing the influences of solution pH, adsorbent dosage, initial solution concentration, contact time and temperature. The optimum adsorption efficiencies were determined at pH 2.8 and pH 4.0 for Fe(III) and Cr(III) metal ion solutions, respectively. The experimental data were modelled by different isotherm models and the equilibriums were well described by the Langmuir adsorption isotherm model. The pseudo-first-order, pseudo-second-order kinetic, intra-particle diffusion and Elovich models were applied to analyze the kinetic data and to evaluate rate constants. The pseudo-second-order kinetic model gave a better fit than the others. The thermodynamic parameters, such as Gibbs free energy change ΔG°, standard enthalpy change ΔH° and standard entropy change ΔS° were evaluated. The thermodynamic study showed the adsorption was a spontaneous endothermic process.