3′–5′ exoribonucleases are key enzymes in the degradation of superfluous or aberrant RNAs and in the maturation of precursor RNAs into their functional forms. The major bacterial 3′–5′ exoribonucleases responsible for both these activities are PNPase, RNase II and RNase R. These enzymes are of ancient nature with widespread distribution. In eukaryotes, PNPase and RNase II/RNase R enzymes can be found in the cytosol and in mitochondria and chloroplasts; RNase II/RNase R-like enzymes are also found in the nucleus. Humans express one PNPase (PNPT1) and three RNase II/RNase R family members (Dis3, Dis3L and Dis3L2). These enzymes take part in a multitude of RNA surveillance mechanisms that are critical for translation accuracy. Although active against a wide range of both coding and non-coding RNAs, the different 3′–5′ exoribonucleases exhibit distinct substrate affinities. The latest studies on these RNA degradative enzymes have contributed to the identification of additional homologue proteins, the uncovering of novel RNA degradation pathways, and to a better comprehension of several disease-related processes and response to stress, amongst many other exciting findings. Here, we provide a comprehensive and up-to-date overview on the function, structure, regulation and substrate preference of the key 3′–5′ exoribonucleases involved in RNA metabolism.