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

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

How about that on an iPhone that runs Apple iOS mobile operating system? Is there a trashcan app that recycles files you attempt to remove? How can you permanently delete 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 as you want.

Note: the guide below applies to iPhones 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 via Settings > General > Software Update). You may find screenshots shown below different if you iPhone is with an older iOS version.

Where is Trash on iPhone?

Well, the answer is — there isn't such Trash or Recycle Bin icon on an iPhone. It might be a bit surprising if you are new to iPhone. Personally, I believe there should be a plausible reason why modern mobile phones don't provide this feature. My guess is when users wanted to delete something, they meant to remove it for good.

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

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

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

How to trash 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 mostly pre-installed app 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 such Trash to recycle apps you remove. Once you remove them, they are gone for good. If you want to get them back, you'll have to visit App Store to re-download them. The process is quite simple; I'm not showing how to do here.

How to empty "Trash" on iPhone Photos

Like I said, the "Trash" on Photos app is actually the Recently Deleted folder. How to find it? Open Photos, tap on Albums, scroll down a bit until you find this trash icon square named "Recently Deleted." Tap on it, now you'll see those photos (or videos) you've deleted with remaining days iOS is going to keep them for. If you can't find pictures and videos you removed, they should have passed the 30-day grace period and got cleaned 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 iPhone users don't know this trick, and wonder why space those photos take isn't released even after they have trashed them. The secret is this Recently Deleted folder. Now you know the reason.

Deleted 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 iPhone Mail app

In case you are new to using the Mail app, here's how to permanently delete an email.

Step 1: Open the Mail app. Go to Inbox. If you want to delete multiple emails, tap "Edit" on the top right and select those items and hit "Delete" (screen 1). To remove a particular email, you can either swipe right and tap the red trash icon (screen 2) or view this email and hit the trash icon in the bottom (screen 3).

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 delete hundreds of emails. Unfortunately, there is no Delete All option available on iOS 10. If you use IMAP for your email (most likely you do), a better way to delete 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 delete emails in batch. And those deleted emails will be removed from your iPhone Mail app as well.

Pro tip: if the 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 Notes

Similar to the Photos app, there is a "Recently Deleted" feature with Notes app too. Once you select notes and delete 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 deleted some notes, see this article how to recover iPhone notes for recovery instructions.

What else?

Unlike computers, iPhones don't have Trash to recycle content you decide to remove. Extra efforts may be needed to delete files or apps permanently. I hope you find this iPhone tip useful. For those of you who are new to the Apple iPhone, it might take a while for you to get used to iOS — which is 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 new iPhone 7, this iMore guide is worth exploring. It's very informative. Anyway, welcome to the iOS world and happy using your iPhone.

Jessica Carrell

Jessica is one of the co-founders at AnySoftwareTools. She is a lover of photography, technology, teaching, and learning. Recently she's keen on following news related to tech giants and SaaS startups in bay area.

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