Adsorptive removal of EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) from aqueous solution was studied using steam pyrolyzed activated carbon. Rubber wood sawdust, obtained from a local timber facility at Kodangavila, Trivandrum, Kerala, India was used as the precursor for the production of the activated carbon. Batch adsorption experiments were employed to monitor and optimize the removal process. The experimental parameters, i. e., solution pH, agitation time, initial EDTA concentration and adsorbent dosage, affecting the adsorption of EDTA onto sawdust activated carbon (SDAC) were optimized. The inner core mechanism for the interaction between EDTA and SDAC, which resulted in the adsorption process, was also discussed. The change in amount of EDTA adsorbed onto SDAC and CAC (commercial activated carbon) was compared over a wide range of pH (2.0–8.0). The maximum removal of EDTA took place in the pH range of 4.0–6.0 for SDAC and 5.0–5.5 for CAC, which demonstrates the effectiveness of the former adsorbent. Kinetic as well as equilibrium studies were performed to determine the rate constant and adsorption capacity, respectively. The adsorption kinetic data was fitted with pseudo-first-order kinetics and the equilibrium data was shown to follow the Langmuir isotherm model. These observations explain the formation of a monolayer of EDTA on the surface of SDAC as confirmed by the slow approach to equilibrium after 4 h of contact time. The adsorption capacity of SDAC for the removal of EDTA was 0.526 mmol/g and is seen to be greater than that of CAC and other reported adsorbents (0.193–0.439 mmol/g). Finally, it is clear that the production of steam pyrolyzed activated carbon in the presence of K2CO3 greatly enhanced EDTA removal and resulted in a product with possible commercial value for wastewater treatment strategies.