For the past few decades, biosorption has been widely investigated for the removal of different contaminants in aqueous media. A number of biomasses of different genre have been identified to possess good biosorption capacity. Insights into biosorption mechanisms have been provided by various researchers in order to develop a fundamental scientific understanding of the biosorption process. However, biosorption has not been employed widely for its large-scale commercial applications. The key factors that affect the growth and evolution of biosorption as a practical technology for decontamination of wastewaters include, (1) lack of investigations on multi-component solutions and wastewaters with complex matrix effects, (2) incomplete understanding of physico-chemical characteristics of biomasses of different types, (3) lack of studies to improve the performance of biosorbents through surface functionalization, and (4) non-integration of biosorption in wastewater/water treatment plants. This critical review aims to identify and discuss the practical limitations of biosorption and provide future research directions to make biosorption a technologically viable process with emphasis on selection and modification of biomasses to suit desired treatment applications, identify appropriate operation modes for large-scale applications of biosorption, and perform techno-economic evaluation of overall biosorption processes. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.