An unprecedented route for mitigating the inhibitory effect of lactic acid (LA) on milk fermentation was achieved through lactate adsorption on hydrotalcite (Ht) from simulated lactate extracts. During its regeneration by ozonation, Ht displayed catalytic activity that appeared to increase by addition of montmorillonite (Mt). Changes in the pH, Zeta potential and catalyst particle size during LA ozonation were found to strongly influence LA–LA, LA–catalyst and catalyst–catalyst interactions. The latter determine lactate protonation–deprotonation and clay dispersion in aqueous media. The activity of Mt appears to involve hydrophobic adsorption of non-dissociated LA molecules on silica-rich areas at low pH, and Lewis acid–base and electrostatic interactions at higher pH than the pKa. Hydrotalcite promotes both hydrophobic interaction and anion exchange. Hydrotalcite–smectite mixture was found to enhance clay dispersion and catalytic activity. This research allowed demonstrating that natural clay minerals can act both as adsorbents for LA extract from fermentation broths and as catalysts for adsorbent regeneration. The results obtained herein provide valuable and useful findings for envisaging seed-free milk clotting in dairy technologies.