Recent experiments in our laboratory have suggested that certain montmorillonite clays, when exchanged with the cationic surfactant cetylpyridinium (CP), may be useful in removing bacteria from aqueous solution. During an initial study, screening various CP-exchanged products for potential antibacterial activity, three CP-exchanged clays - CP*AAM (acid-activated montmorillonite), CP*STx-1 (Ca(++)-montmorillonite), and CP*SWy-2 (Na(+)-montmorillonite), proved to be the most effective. Binding studies were performed using 1mg each of CP-exchanged AAM, STx-1, and SWy-2 with a standardized Salmonella enteritidis solution containing approximately 40,000 colony forming units (CFU)/ml. The modified clays reduced bacterial numbers 98.1, 97.6, and 95.2%, respectively. In contrast, the parent clays only produced reductions of 39.8, 16.9, and 16.6%, respectively. Attempts were made to desorb CP from the modified clays by washing in sterile physiological saline for 24h. The resulting wash solutions failed to produce any significant reduction in bacterial colony counts; while, the washed clays retained their full antimicrobial activity. These findings suggested that the antibacterial effect of the clays is localized on the clay surface and is not due to CP dissociating from the clay. Electron microscopy revealed that the bacteria adhered to the surface of the CP-exchanged clays, but not the parent clays. Results from timed binding studies showed that the antibacterial effect was stable over the period observed. Rates of binding were positively influenced by increasing temperature, not affected by changes in pH, and negatively influenced by the presence of organic contaminants. The mechanism by which bacterial counts are reduced may involve the enhanced hydrophobicity and affinity of the CP-exchanged clay for Salmonella and the antibacterial activity of CP.