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Small, wet particulate material is effectively dried by adding a hydrophobizing agent to coat the surfaces of the particulates, and then mechanically removing water droplets from the surfaces of the particulates. Once on the surface of the particulates, the hydrophobizing reagent makes the particulates relatively more hydrophobic and increases the water contact angle on the particulates. The moisture content of the particulate material can easily be reduced to levels below 20%, below 10%, and even below 5%. The process can be used to dewater a wide variety of constituents including coal particles, clays, sulfides, phosphorous compounds, minerals, metals, waste sludge, etc. Particularly preferred hydrophobizing reagents include mono unsaturated fatty esters and polysiloxane polymers.