Due to limited economic resources, which impede access to specific advanced technologies, many developing countries are still facing the challenge of reducing human exposure to heavy metals, which is primarily associated with the consumption of water contaminated through the discharge of poorly treated wastewater. In wastewater treatment technology, adsorption is sometime preferred to other approaches because of its high efficiency, easy handling, availability of different substrates and cost effectiveness. Moreover, increasing emphasis has recently been given to the use of low-cost adsorbents (generally solid wastes) for the treatment of polluted water, with a resulting double benefit for the environment. In this paper, the use of red mud and pyrolusite has been investigated for the removal of As and Mn from drinking water. Adsorption equilibrium data have been examined through the application of constant temperature models (isotherms), while batch and dynamic tests have been used to clarify the effects of pH, initial metal ion concentration and temperature on the adsorption performance, aiming at identifying the best conditions for the treatment. The combined use of the two adsorbents allows exploiting their properties synergistically, maximizing efficacy and sustainability without affecting process design and costs. In particular, ‘clean’ water (i.e. water with heavy metals contents below law limits) has been obtained even after the passage of a volume of solution higher than 40 bed volumes, and considering initial unrealistically high concentrations for the metals.