Where is Recycle Bin on iPhone and How to Empty Trash

On a computer, there is a recycling feature to hold items you delete. For Windows PCs, it’s called Recycle Bin. For Mac machines, there is Trash.

How about iPhones? Is there a Recycle Bin or Trash that recycles files you delete? How can you permanently remove items to free up space hoping to fix the annoying iPhone storage almost full warning?

empty iPhone trash

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 trash.

Note: the guide below should apply to all iPhone models as long as your iPhone is running under iOS 10 or above (find out by tapping Settings > General > Software Update). You may find screenshots below different if your iPhone is with a newer iOS version.

Where is Recycle Bin on iPhone?

Well, the answer is — there is not a Recycle Bin or Trash app on an iPhone. It might be a bit surprising for those of you who are new to the iOS world.

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

But There is a “Recently Deleted” Folder

Many users don’t know the trick. 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 40 days. In other words, on day 41 your iPhone will automatically delete items stored in this folder — just like you emptying Recycle Bin on your computer.

How to Delete 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 seconds until the background dims out and you’ll see the “Delete App” option. Tap on this option and you’re all set.

delete facebook on iphone

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 the App Store to re-download them.

How to Empty “Trash” on Photos App?

As I said, the feature on the Photos app is actually “Recently Deleted”.

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

If you can’t find the pictures and videos you removed, they must have passed the 40-day grace period and got deleted already.

If you want to free up more storage space, be sure to select the media files and hit the “Delete All” option in the left corner. Otherwise, they still occupy a certain space. Some of you may not know this trick and wonder why the space those photos take isn’t released even after they have been deleted.

The secret is this Recently Deleted folder. Removed some items by mistake? It’s never too late to get them back. Learn more on how to recover deleted photos from iPhone.

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 at 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.

If you use IMAP for your email (most likely you do), a better way to remove multiple emails is to log into your email account via a web browser. For example, if you use Gmail, go to Gmail.com.

That way it would be much easier to empty mailboxes in batches. 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 iPhone data recovery software review.​

Pro tip: if your goal for 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 this post for more.

How to Permanently Delete Notes on the Notes App?

Similar to the Photos app, there is a “Recently Deleted” feature with the 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 on how to recover iPhone notes for step-by-step recovery instructions.

Final Words

Unlike computers, iPhones and iPads don’t have a Recycle Bin or 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.

Welcome to the iOS world, and happy using your iPhone!

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  • Radaghast

    Not helpful. Just today I marked all ~50 emails in my iPhone Trash (Mail app) for deletion. And *poof* they’re gone. Five minutes later, 550 emails appear in my Inbox. Duplicates of every email I deleted this week. So I deleted them all again plus another handful. And *poof* 600 emails appear in my Inbox. So sorry, your very basic “How To” piece is a little bit fluffy, i.e. not very deep or helpful beyond the simplest taskz

  • Jodi

    I’m want to know how to permanently delete junk mail from my iPhone 10x

  • Evonne

    Nicely done! Simple, straightforward, and CORRECT steps!

  • Katrina

    I still have no idea how to empty my Deleted Items folder.

  • PETE

    I’m afraid that your article was no use to me at all. In my TRASH folder I have more than 2,000 items and my only way to delete is to do them one by one – what a task! Surely you can tell me how to select all the items in trash and then how to delete them!
    Help please!!

    • Jeffery

      With all the technology today, surely they could provide a way to delete hundreds of Trash items at one click!!!????

    • Dave

      I also have and iPhone 8+ iO/S 14.3v with 377 “deleted” emails (gmail) in “trash” and other than spending the time and aggravation to delete them 1 after another I can not seem to find a procedure to delete the “trash folder” in its entirety; any detailed suggestions??

      Thank you, Dave

  • Montrula

    I did not find the answer to how to delete the trash or deleted items. I am very disappointed.

  • Jackie

    How about the trash box file any way to delete all? Says I have stuff from 2010. Besides deleting one at a time I can’t get it to delete all. I even went on my computer and I don’t have any emails that old so not sure were it is getting these

  • Maria Brons

    Thank you Jessica Carrell. Your tricks on emptying iPhone trash were very helpful. I appreciated the clear outline and the illustrated instructions.

  • Araya

    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!!

    • Chris L

      Ditto! You know more than most!! Thank you !!!!

  • Patty

    Finally, my photo storage is back. Thank you sooooo much!

  • Peter B.

    Thank you, Jessica for your ‘very’ helpful article. You provided exactly the info I was searching for to clean up deleted photos which didn’t provide a change in available storage space. :o)

  • Jeff Brown

    I wanted to learn how to delete empty old mailboxes that have been moved to Trash.

  • Bill N

    How can I restore a picture and text that I accidentally deleted in Text Messaging?

  • R

    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.