The aim of this study was to investigate the applicability of the adsorption process for the removal of organophosphorus pesticide malathion 57% from water by using multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs). The impact of various experimental conditions such as pH, quantity of adsorbent, concentration of pesticides, contact time and temperature was studied and optimized for the maximum removal of malathion. Unlike conventional optimization, a limited number of experiments (26 steps) were performed in a cost-effective manner for different independent variables such as MWCNTs concentration (0.1-0.5 g/L), the malathion (57%) concentration (6 mg/L and 10 mg/L), contact time (2-30 min) and pH (neutral range). Based on the experimental data obtained in a lab-scale batch study, a three-factor response surface modeling (RSM) approach was implemented in order to optimize the conditions for maximum removal of malathion, and compare experimental results with standardized malathion samples. The optimized conditions to achieve the maximum removal of malathion (100%) were determined to be a malathion concentration of 6 mg/L, an initial MWCNTs concentration of 0.5 g/L, and a contact time of 30 min. Findings of this study clearly indicated that 100% of the malathion could be cost-effectively removed by MWCNTs in conditions predicted by the proposed optimization methodology. (C) 2016 Published by Elsevier B.V.