This study presents a two-stage method for modification of tin(IV) oxide using (3-mercaptopropyl) trimethoxysilane and grafting of N,N-dimethylacrylamide-allyl butyl ether copolymer. The resulting sorbent was characterized by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, elemental analysis, thermogravimetric analysis, transmission electron microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and the Brunauer–Emmett–Teller method and evaluated for xylene adsorption from environmental water samples. Batch experiments were conducted to evaluate the effect of the analytical parameters of pH, contact time, initial concentration and temperature. The optimum pH was 5, contact time was 5 min, and temperature for sorption of xylene was 30 °C. The capacity of the sorbent was 8.56 mg g−1. Results showed good accessibility of the active sites. The equilibrium adsorption data of xylene sorption onto grafted nano-tin(IV) oxide were analyzed using the Langmuir, Freundlich, Temkin, and Redlich–Peterson isotherm models. The adsorption data were modeled as pseudo-first-order, pseudo-second-order, and intra-particle diffusion kinetic equations. The results show that adsorption followed by the Langmuir isotherm and the pseudo-second-order model and intra-particle diffusion model showed more than one process is controlling the adsorption process. The sorbent removed more than 90 % of the xylene from the water solution samples.