An improved method for preparing activated carbons from wet waste activated sludge (WAS) by direct chemical activation was studied in this paper. The effects of processing parameters on iodine adsorption capacity of the product were investigated. Results show that sludge-based activated carbon prepared with KOH had a larger iodine value than those activated with ZnCl2 and KCl. The maximum iodine value was observed at the KOH concentration of 0.50 M. Increasing the impregnation time from 10 to 20 h resulted in a 20% increase in the iodine value. The highest iodine value was obtained at the activation temperature of 600°C and holding time of 1 h. Sludge water content had insignificant effects on the iodine value of products. Raw WAS with a water content of 93.2% can be converted into an activated carbon with a high specific surface area of 737.6 m2 g−1 and iodine value of 864.8 mgg−1 under optimum experimental conditions. Other physical properties such as total pore volume, micropore volume and mean pore diameter of the product were also reported and compared with those of commercial activated carbon.