The adsorption behavior of phthalic acid and its three esters dimethyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate and diallyl phthalate onto high-area activated carbon-cloth was studied by in situ UV-spectroscopic technique. The effect of ionization of phthalic acid on its adsorption was examined by carrying out the adsorption process in three media; water, 1 M H2SO4 and 0.005 M NaOH. Maximum adsorption was observed in 1 M H2SO4 and almost no adsorption in 0.005 M NaOH. These results were discussed in terms of electrostatic and dispersion interactions between the adsorbate species and the carbon-cloth surface taking the point of zero charge (pH(pzc)) of the carbon-cloth into account. The adsorption process for the phthalate species studied was found to follow the first-order rate law, and the rate constants were determined. The isotherm data for the adsorption of phthalic acid and its esters were derived experimentally and fitted to Langmuir and Freundlich isotherm equations. Both equations were found to represent the experimental isotherm data almost equally well. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.