Phytoextraction has a promising potential as an environmentally friendly clean-up method for soils contaminated with toxic metals. To improve the development of efficient phytoextraction strategies, better knowledge regarding metal uptake, translocation and detoxification in planta is a prerequisite. This review highlights our current understanding on these mechanisms, and their impact on plant growth and health. Special attention is paid to the central role of glutathione (GSH) in this process. Because of the high affinity of metals to thiols and as a precursor for phytochelatins (PCs), GSH is an essential metal chelator. Being an important antioxidant, a direct link between metal detoxification and the oxidative challenge in plants growing on contaminated soils is observed, where GSH could be a key player. In addition, as redox couple, oxidized and reduced GSH transmits specific information, in this way tuning cellular signalling pathways under environmental stress conditions. Possible improvements of phytoextraction could be achieved by using transgenic plants or plant-associated microorganisms. Joined efforts should be made to cope with the challenges faced with phytoextraction in order to successfully implement this technique in the field.