Acrylamide (AAm)-2-acrylamide-2-methylpropanesulfonic acid sodium salt (AMPSNa) hydrogel and AAm-AMPSNa/clay hydrogel nanocomposite having 10 w% clay was prepared by in situ copolymerization in aqueous solution in the presence of a crosslinking agent (NN'-methylene-bisacrylamide (NMBA)). Swelling properties and kinetics of the hydrogel samples were investigated in water and aqueous solutions of the Safranine-T (ST) and Brilliant Cresyl Blue (BCB) dyes. The swelling and diffusion parameters were also calculated in water and dye solutions. It was observed that the AAm-AMPSNa/clay hydrogel nanocomposite exhibits improved swelling capacity compared with the AAm-AMPSNa hydrogel. It was also found that the diffusion mechanisms show non-Fickian character. Adsorption properties of the hydrogel samples in the aqueous solution of ST and BCB dyes were also investigated. Clay incorporation into the hydrogel structure increased not only the adsorption capacity but also the adsorption rate. Adsorption capacity values of the hydrogel nanocomposite were found to be 484.2 and 494.2 mg g(-1) for the ST and BCB dyes, respectively. It was seen that the adsorption of dyes by the hydrogel nanocomposite completed in 10 min while the AAm-AMPSNa hydrogel adsorbed dyes approximately in 90 min. Adsorption data of the samples were modelled by the pseudo-first-order and pseudo-second-order kinetic equations in order to investigate dye adsorption mechanism. It was found that the adsorption kinetics of hydrogel nanocomposite followed a pseudo-second-order model. Equilibrium isotherms were analyzed using the Langmuir and Freundlich isotherms. It was seen that the Langmuir model fits the adsorption data better than the Freundlich model. Copyright (C) 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.