In the present study, the sorption characteristics of Cd(II) and Zn(II) ions on quartz, a representative soil-component, and the desorption of these metal ions from quartz using rhamnolipid biosurfactant were investigated. In the first part of the studies, the effects of initial metal ion concentration and pH on sorption of Cd(II) and Zn(II) ions by a fixed amount of quartz (1.5 g) were studied in laboratory batch mode. The equilibrium sorption capacity for Cd(II) and Zn(II) ions was measured and the best correlation between experimental and model predicted equilibrium uptake was obtained using the Freundlich model. Although investigations on the desorption of heavy metal ions from the main soil-components are crucial to better understand the mobility and bioavailability of metals in the environment, studies on the description of desorption equilibrium were performed rarely. In the second part, the desorption of Cd(II) and Zn(II) from quartz using rhamnolipid biosurfactant was investigated as a function of pH, rhamnolipid concentration, and the amounts of sorbed Cd(II) and Zn(II) ions by quartz. The Freundlich model was also well fitted to the obtained desorption isotherms. Several indexes were calculated based on the differences of the quantity of Cd-Zn sorbed and desorbed. A desorption hysteresis (irreversibility) index based on the Freundlich exponent, concentration-dependent metal distribution coefficients, and the irreversibility index based on the metal distribution coefficient were used to quantify hysteretic behavior observed in the systems. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.