In last a few decades, significant improvements were made in both efficiency and economy for removal of heavy metals and metalloid (arsenic) from water using adsorbents. But less attention was paid to recycling of used adsorbents and recovery of the heavy metals from the desorbing agents. For regeneration and reuse of adsorbents, various possible regenerating agents such as acids, alkalis and chelating agents (such as ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid) were used by many researchers with very limited success in some of the studies only up to a limited number of adsorption–desorption cycles. Only a few of the reported studies were focused on recovery of adsorbed (from saturated adsorbents) and desorbed metals (from regenerating agents). Though the management of the used adsorbent and recovery of heavy metals is one of the most important aspects, but only a limited number of research works considered the fate of spent adsorbents before disposal. This review summarizes the removal efficiency of various adsorbents, desorption efficiency of various regenerating agents and recovery of the heavy metals from both saturated adsorbents and desorbing solvents used for regeneration. The study will help the scientific community working on adsorption studies to take up research initiatives required to address the feasible recovery methods of heavy metals from the used adsorbents, to study the possible reuse of the desorbing agents and to choose a suitable desorbing/regenerating agent for a particular adsorbent.