How to Empty the Trash in Gmail

How to Empty the Trash in Gmail

The large pile of deleted emails in your “Trash” makes you queasy? Want to permanently delete a Gmail email? Find out here how to empty the trash in Gmail or permanently delete individual messages at any time.

First, Soup without Soup

Honey without sugar…

Like chairs without legs and bicycles without wheels, these exist; at least they exist as ideas thought up using one of the systematic inventive thinking tools of creativity. With subtraction, you eliminate (what you assumed was) an essential component from a product or service—and see what happens.

So, let’s imagine an email trash—without emails:

How to Empty the Trash in Gmail

Using Gmail on the Web

Time needed: 1 minute

To permanently delete all messages in the Gmail Trash label and empty that folder:

  1. Open the Trash folder or label in Gmail.

    How to open trash: You can select Trash in the left navigation pane (click More ▼ if initially you do not see it in the list) or, with Gmail keyboard shortcuts enabled, press G L and type Trash followed by Enter or select label:Trash from the auto-complete list.
    Press G L and type "Trash"

  2. Make sure no messages that you might want or need to use later are in the Trash folder.

    Search inside the trash: Use “in: trash ” followed by any other search term to search just the Trash in Gmail; for instance, “in: trash from:jane” finds all emails from senders whose name or address includes “jane” in the Gmail Trash.
    Restoration: You can recover messages you want to keep in Gmail right away, of course.

  3. Click Empty Trash now at the top of the Trash folder list.

    Click "Empty Trash now"

  4. Click OK under Confirm deleting messages.

    Important: This will permanently delete all emails that are in the Trash from Gmail, and you will no longer be able to recover them easily.
    Click "OK" under "Confirm deleting messages"

Empty the Trash Using the Gmail Apps for Android and iOS

To empty the Trash in the Gmail Android app or the Gmail iOS app:

  1. Tap the menu button.
  2. Go to the Trash category.
  3. Now tap Empty Trash Now.
    Tap "Empty Trash Now"
  4. Tap OK to confirm emptying the Gmail Trash.

Unfortunately, you cannot permanently delete individual messages using the Gmail Android and iOS apps at this time.

Do open the desktop Gmail interface in a mobile browser instead and see below.

How to Permanently Delete an Individual Email in Gmail

To delete certain emails forever in Gmail without emptying the Trash and losing all other emails in it:

  1. Make sure the email you want to delete permanently is in your Gmail’s Trash folder.
    Here’s how: Open the message and click Delete (Click "Delete") in the toolbar, for example, or press # (with Gmail keyboard shortcuts enabled).
  2. Go to the Trash in Gmail.
  3. Open the message or conversation you want to delete irrevocably.
    More than one email: To permanently delete multiple emails in one go, you can check them all in the Trash folder.
    No search: Searching for specific messages and checking them will, alas, not work. You can only permanently delete individual emails if you are in the unfiltered Trash folder.
  4. Select Delete forever from the toolbar.
    No shortcut: There is no keyboard shortcut for this action; pressing # will, alas, not work.

How to Empty the Trash in Gmail: FAQ

Will messages disappear from all labels and email programs set up to access Gmail?


Messages will be permanently deleted from Gmail including all folders and labels in it.

If you have email programs or services set up to access Gmail using IMAP or OAuth, the messages will disappear from these programs automatically as well. Email programs or services that download copies using POP—or email backup services, of course—will keep their copies, though.

Will emptying the Gmail “Trash” also remove junk emails?


Messages under the Spam label will not disappear if you empty the Trash.

You can always empty Spam, of course. Messages under Spam will also disappear permanently after 30 days on their own.

Doesn’t Gmail empty the “Trash” automatically?


Emails will be removed from Gmail Trash and automatically deleted permanently a certain time after deletion. You need not empty the trash manually to eventually have email permanently deleted from the account.

Can I empty the “Trash” in Simple HTML Gmail?


There is, alas, no uncomplicated way to delete all emails in the trash using basic HTML Gmail.

(You cannot set up a new rule that matches messages in the “trash” label either.)

Can I empty the “Trash” in Gmail’s mobile web version? Where is the “Empty Trash” button?


The mobile web version of Gmail does not allow you to empty the Trash folder. if you open Gmail in a mobile browser, you will not find an Empty Trash button.

To empty the Gmail trash on a mobile device, either

Can I delete the Trash folder from Gmail?


Gmail will always use the Trash to temporarily store deleted emails.

What you can do is hide the Trash label from your Gmail’s web interface and prevent the Trash folder from showing up in email programs connecting to Gmail through IMAP.

Is It possible to recover email after emptying the “Trash” in Gmail?


With Gmail alone, you cannot normally recover messages that have been removed from the Trash and permanently deleted.

That does not mean you are without options. To recover emails you no longer can find in Gmail (including the Trash), try the following locations:

  • An email program set up to use Gmail.
    POP: With email programs using POP to download messages from Gmail, the message was not automatically deleted as you permanently deleted it from Gmail itself, and if you did not delete it in the application, you may be able to find it (and copy it back to Gmail by forwarding or via IMAP).
    IMAP: If an email client or app uses IMAP, changes are automatically synchronized, and all emails permanently deleted from Gmail online are typically also removed from the application. If you can immediately take the program offline, you may be able to make a copy of the email before you take the email program back online, though.
    Do check messages marked for deletion or purging, if that is possible in the email program.
  • Any email backup service: you might have set up one just to try and luckily forgot to disable it.
  • The email’s original sender or, for emails you sent, the recipient might still have a copy they can forward to you.
  • Gmail does have a way to request recovery of missing emails.
    The extraordinary: This is intended for emails inexplicably gone missing, not messages you know you deleted permanently.

(How to empty the trash in Gmail tested in a desktop browser as well as the Android and iOS apps; first published September 2017, last updated March 2024)

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