Apoptotic cell death and the clearance of dying cells play an important and physiological role in embryonic development and normal tissue turnover. In contrast to necrosis, apoptosis proceeds in an anti-inflammatory manner. It is orchestrated by the timed release and/or exposure of so-called ‘find-me’, ‘eat me’ and ‘tolerate me’ signals. Mononuclear phagocytes are attracted by various ‘find-me’ signals, including proteins, nucleotides, and phospholipids released by the dying cell, whereas the involvement of granulocytes is prevented via ‘stay away’ signals. The exposure of anionic phospholipids like phosphatidylserine (PS) by apoptotic cells on the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane is one of the main ‘eat me’ signals. PS is recognized by a number of innate receptors as well as by soluble bridging molecules on the surface of phagocytes. Importantly, phagocytes are able to discriminate between viable and apoptotic cells both exposing PS. Due to cytoskeleton remodeling PS has a higher lateral mobility on the surfaces of apoptotic cells thereby promoting receptor clustering on the phagocyte. PS not only plays an important role in the engulfment process, but also acts as ‘tolerate me’ signal inducing the release of anti-inflammatory cytokines by phagocytes. An efficient and fast clearance of apoptotic cells is required to prevent secondary necrosis and leakage of intracellular danger signals into the surrounding tissue. Failure or prolongation of the clearance process leads to the release of intracellular antigens into the periphery provoking inflammation and development of systemic inflammatory autoimmune disease like systemic lupus erythematosus. Here we review the current findings concerning apoptosis-inducing pathways, important players of apoptotic cell recognition and clearance as well as the role of membrane remodeling in the engulfment of apoptotic cells by phagocytes.