Adsorption techniques are widely used to remove certain classes of pollutants from waters, especially those that are not easily biodegradable. Dyes represent one of the problematic groups. Currently, a combination of biological treatment and adsorption on activated carbon is becoming more common for removal of dyes from wastewater. Although commercial activated carbon is a preferred sorbent for color removal, its widespread use is restricted due to high cost. As such, alternative non-conventional sorbents have been investigated. It is well-known that natural materials, waste materials from industry and agriculture and biosorbents can be obtained and employed as inexpensive sorbents. In this review, an extensive list of sorbent literature has been compiled. The review (i) presents a critical analysis of these materials; (ii) describes their characteristics, advantages and limitations; and (iii) discusses various mechanisms involved. It is evident from a literature survey of about 210 recent papers that low-cost sorbents have demonstrated outstanding removal capabilities for certain dyes. In particular, chitosan might be a promising adsorbent for environmental and purification purposes.