Controlled-rate thermal analysis (CRTA) and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) were used to investigate the adsorbed water layers and the surface properties of different commercial activated carbons. A simple method is proposed to obtain information on the properties of the adsorbed water film and the surface heterogeneity of the materials studied. This method utilizes TG mass loss and the first derivative of the DTG mass loss curves with respect to temperature and time, obtained during programmed liquid thermodesorption. The obtained TG mass loss curves, which reflect the energetic heterogeneity, consisted of steps and inflections which were associated with the mechanism of wetting of the solid surfaces. The heights of these steps and inflections depend on the adsorption capacity, the adsorption potential and the nature and number of the active centers of the carbon samples studied. The values of the total porosity and the surface phase capacity obtained by this method are in good agreement with those estimated on the basis of independent methods. The behaviour of water/carbon samples was studied by means of DSC at subambient and elevated temperatures. The experimental results provided novel data on the structural heterogeneity, the thermal stability of the water/carbon interface and its phase and structural transitions.