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How to empty trash on an iPhone

Free up space by deleting unwanted files. Learn how to empty trash on your iPhone in a few easy steps.

Published onDecember 14, 2023

You can easily delete unwanted files and photos from your iPhone. However, deleting them does not mean that they are gone forever. They are still stored in the trash directories of different apps, such as Photos, Mail, Notes, and more. And unlike Macs and Windows computers, the trash folder on iPhone is not that obvious.

To completely remove the deleted files and media from your iPhone and free up some storage space, you need to empty the trash directories. In this article, we will guide you through the steps of how to empty trash on an iPhone in various apps.


While the iPhone may not have a single trash folder like Macs and Windows computers, many apps on iPhone have their own Recently Deleted or Trash folders which you can clear manually. You can also wait for them to clear automatically every 30 days.


Do iPhones have a trash bin?

iPhones do not have a trash bin like a Windows computer or a Mac. Instead, some apps on iPhones have a separate trash directory to store deleted files temporarily, such as Photos, Notes, Mail, and Files. You can find the trash directory in these apps and delete or recover the files within 30 days.

How to empty trash on an iPhone

There are different ways to empty trash on an iPhone, depending on the app you want to clear. This article will show you how to empty the trash from the Photos, Mail, Notes, Files, and Messages apps.

In the Photos app

When you want to free up some space on your iPhone, you might start deleting old and unwanted photos and videos. However, these files are not removed from your iPhone right away. They are moved to the Recently Deleted album on your iPhone. This is the Photos app equivalent of a trash folder. Follow the steps below to clear this album:

  1. Open the Photos app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap Albums on the bottom of the screen, then tap Recently Deleted.
  3. Tap Select on the top right of the screen, then tap the Options icon (three dots in a circle) on the bottom right.
  4. Tap Delete All > Delete From This iPhone.

This will erase all the photos and videos that you have deleted from your gallery in the past 30 days. The Photos app automatically clears this album after 30 days. This won’t delete the photos and videos from iCloud if you have synched them though.

In the Mail app

We often need to check the Mail app, to send and receive emails. You can mark some of them as important, and move others to Trash. The emails you move to the trash folder on your iPhone can be deleted by following these steps:

  1. Open the Mail app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap Mailboxes on the top left of the screen.
  3. Tap Trash > Edit > Select All > Delete > Delete All.

This will clear the trash folder in the Mail app. While trashed emails don’t take up any space on your iPhone, they can fill the Mail app’s cloud storage. So it’s recommended you clear it out from time to time.

In the Notes app

While there is an option to sync your notes with iCloud, you can keep them on your iPhone, too if you want. If you delete any notes from your device, they will go to a Recently Deleted folder, where you can recover them later if you want. To clear them from there as well, follow the steps below:

  1. Open the Notes app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap Folders on the top left of the screen.
  3. Tap Recently Deleted > Edit > Delete All > Delete X Notes.

The Notes you deleted from your iPhone in the past 30 days will be cleared from the Notes trash folder.

In the Files app

When you remove files from the Files app on your iPhone, they are not deleted immediately but moved to a Recently Deleted folder. You can delete these files permanently if you want to free up space right away. The instructions below will guide you on how you can do that:

  1. Open the Files app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap Browse on the bottom right of the screen.
  3. Tap Recently Deleted, then tap the Options icon.
  4. Tap Select > Delete All > Delete.

The Recently Deleted folder will be cleared of the files you deleted in the past few days, and a little bit of your storage will also be freed up.

In the Messages app

The Messages app also has a trash folder where the deleted messages go before they are permanently erased. This can come in handy when you want to recover any important messages you might have mistakenly deleted. Follow the steps to clear the Recently Deleted folder on the Messages app:

  1. Open the Messages app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap Edit on the top left of the screen, then tap Show Recently Deleted.
  3. Tap Delete All > Delete X Messages.

The Messages will be permanently deleted. Make sure you are only deleting the messages that are not important, as they can’t be recovered afterwards.

How else can you delete trash on an iPhone?

Other apps utilize a trash folder, too. For example, the Voice Memos app moves all recordings you deleted in the last 30 days to a Recently Deleted folder, too. You can clear that folder, too, by navigating to the Recently Deleted folder and tapping Edit > Delete All > Delete Forever.

Some third-party tools can also help you scrub your iPhone clean of any extra and useless files, including the ones in your trash folders. One of them is Dr. Fone for Windows and Mac, which can help you clean up the storage and improve the performance of your iPhone.

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