How to Empty Trash on iPhone (iOS 10): Tricks You Need to Know

Last updated: Aug. 16, 2017

For those of you ever used a computer, you know there is a recycling feature to hold items you delete. For Windows PCs, it's called Recycle Bin. For Mac machines, it's Trash.

How about iPhones that run Apple iOS mobile operating system? Is there an app that recycles files you attempt to remove? How can you permanently remove items to free up space hoping to fix the iPhone storage almost full warning?

That's what I'm going to cover in this article. I'll show you everything you need to know about iPhone trash: including detailed instructions on how to find it or empty it.

Note: the guide below applies to all iPhone models with iOS 10. It doesn't matter whether you use an iPhone 5/5S, 6/6S/6Plus, or 7/7Plus as long as it's running under iOS 10 (find out by tapping Settings > General > Software Update). You may find screenshots below different if you iPhone is with an older iOS version.

Where is Trash on iPhone?

Well, the answer is — there is NO such Trash or Recycle Bin icon. It might be a bit surprising for those of you who are new to the iOS world.

Personally, I believe there is a plausible reason why modern mobile phones don't provide this feature. My hunch is when users want to delete something, they mean to remove it for good.

But wait...there is a "Recently Deleted" folder

Many users don't know the trick. In iOS 10 (more precisely, since iOS 8), Apple has added a new feature called "Recently Deleted", and it has been built into several apps like Photos, Notes, etc. The primary function of this feature is very much like Recycle Bin on a computer.

The only difference is that "Recently Deleted" only keeps items for up to 30 days (or 40 days, as reported by our readers). In other words, in day 31 iOS will automatically delete items stored this folder — just like you emptying Recycle Bin on your computer, though you have to do it manually.

How to delete iPhone apps you don't need?

For those of you who are new to iOS, deleting apps you no longer need is quite easy. Just tap on an app for two to three seconds until all app icons start to shake, then tap the "x" on the top left. This will remove the app from your phone permanently.

If you notice there is no "x" appearing on some apps. Then these are probably pre-installed apps from Apple. For example, in the above screenshot, they are Safari, Photos, Camera, and Clock.

There is still a way to remove them. First, go to Settings > General > Restrictions, tap on the passcode, then tap to turn off those apps you want to delete. After that, go back to your home screen, repeat the above operation — tap on the app until it jiggles, then hit "x" to delete them.

Note: there is no way to recover apps you've already removed. Once you delete them, they are gone permanently. To get them back, you'll have to visit App Store to re-download them. The process is quite simple thus I'm not showing you how to do here.

How to empty "Trash" on Photos app?

Like I said, the feature on Photos app is actually "Recently Deleted".

How to find it? Open Photos, tap on Albums, scroll down a bit until you see this trashcan icon square named "Recently Deleted" (see the screenshot below). Tap on it, now you'll see those photos (or videos) you've erased, together with remaining days iOS is going to keep them for.

If you can't find pictures and videos you removed, they must have passed the 30-day grace period and got emptied already.

If you want to free up more storage space, be sure to select the media files and hit the "Delete All" option on the left corner. Otherwise, they still occupy certain space. Some of you may not know this trick, and wonder why space those photos take isn't released even after they have been deleted. The secret is this Recently Deleted folder. Now you know 🙂

Removed some items by mistake? It's never too late to get them back. Check out this article 4 ways to recover deleted photos and videos from iPhone for more.

How to delete emails on Mail app?

In case you are new to the Mail app in iOS, here's how to permanently remove an email.

Step 1: Open the Mail app. Go to Inbox. If you want to get rid of multiple emails, tap "Edit" on the top right and select those items and hit "Delete" (as seen on the screenshot on the left).

To remove a particular email, you can either swipe right and tap the red icon (screenshot in the middle) or view this email and hit the "Trash" icon in the bottom (screenshot on the right).

Step 2: Now go back to Mailboxes. Tap on Trash, select all of the emails you want to permanently remove and hit "Delete." That's it.

Well, I know, it can be quite time-consuming if you want to get rid of hundreds of emails. Unfortunately, there is no Delete All option on iOS 10.

If you use IMAP for your email (most likely you do), a better way to remove multiple emails is log into your email account via a web browser. For example, if you use Gmail, go to That way it would be much easier to empty mailboxes in batch. And those emails will be instantly removed from your Mail app as well.

Accidentally erased some important emails? It might not be too late to retrieve them. Check out our best iPhone data recovery software reviewed.​

Pro tip: if your intent behind email deletion is to free up storage for your iPhone, another way that could help regain much space is by clearing offline email copies. You can do so simply by removing your email accounts and re-adding them. Check out the #8 tip from this post we have.

How to permanently delete notes on the Notes app?

Similar to the Photos app, there is a "Recently Deleted" feature with Notes app too. Once you select notes and tap to erase them (screenshot on the left), they will go to the Recently Deleted (as seen in the middle screenshot), tap on it and you'll see a warning which says "Notes are permanently deleted after 30 days." Select them again and tap "Delete All."

If you mistakenly removed some notes, see this article how to recover iPhone notes for step by step recovery instructions.

What else?

Unlike computers, iPhones and iPads don't have a Trash app to recycle content you decide to remove. Extra efforts may be needed to remove files or apps permanently. I hope you find this guide useful.

For those of you who are new to iOS, it might take a while for you to get used to iOS — which might feel totally different from other operating systems you've used. To speed up the learning curve, take some time to read the manual. If you just got a brand new iPhone 7, this iMore guide is worth exploring. It's very informative. Anyway, welcome to the iOS world and happy using your iPhone.

Influenced by the startup culture in the Silicon Valley, Jessica loves building things from zero to one and is keen on following news related to the Big Five tech giants and many SaaS startups.

5 thoughts on “How to Empty Trash on iPhone (iOS 10): Tricks You Need to Know

  1. Well, thanks for this extremely helpful post about how to swipe and tap my fingers? I am SO GLAD i now know how to delete a note or email. wow. great work.

  2. THANK YOU!!! I was on the phone last night with apple for like 30 minutes and the guy couldn’t even understand what I was trying to do – permanently delete photos – clear the cache, the trash bin, whatever he wanted to call it as my storage amount wasn’t changing no matter how many photos and videos I deleted!! He was convinced the simple ‘delete’ operation would free up space. Every apple employee should know this basic operation!! I am so grateful for this info!!

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