The cationic organometallic aqua complexes formed by hydrolysis of [(C 6H6)RuCl2]2 in water, mainly [(C6H6)Ru(H2O)3]2+, intercalate into sodium hectorite by ion exchange, replacing the sodium cations between the anionic silicate layers. The yellow hectorite thus obtained reacts in ethanol with molecular hydrogen (50 bar, 100°C) with decomposition of the organometallic aqua complexes to give a black material, in which ruthenium(0) nanoparticles (9-18 nm) are intercalated between the anionic silicate layers, the charges of which being balanced by hydronium cations. The black ruthenium-modified hectorite efficiently catalyses the hydrogenation of benzene and toluene in ethanol (50 bar H2, 50°C), the turnover frequencies attaining 7000 catalytic cycles per hour. © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007.