How to Access Google Docs Trash

Learn how to recover deleted docs and empty trash folder

When you delete something from Google Docs, you have only a few seconds to undo it and put the file back where it was. While the undo has a quick time limit, you can still get the file back.

Undeleting is easy and you have 30 days to do it, with one catch: you can’t use Google Docs to restore it, at least not if you're on a computer.

Google Docs is part of Google Drive, so everything you create or delete is reflected in your Google Drive account. It’s a little confusing at first, but after going through the steps below to find the Google Docs trash folder, you’ll be more familiar with where your files are kept and how to restore them if you need to.

Accessing the trash is also necessary if you’re wanting to permanently delete something on purpose. You can empty the trash at any time if you don’t want to wait 30 days for it to empty itself.

You can follow these steps from a computer or the Google Docs mobile app for iOS or Android.

How to Access Google Docs Trash

You can get to your trashed items from both Google Docs and Google Drive. Once you're in there, you can choose to empty the folder or restore files from it.

Here's how to do it from a computer:

  1. Open Google Drive. If you’ve got Google Docs open already, you can select the menu button at the top left and choose Drive.

    The Google Docs menu.
  2. Use the menu on the left to select Trash.

  3. Now you can pick what to do:

    To permanently delete everything in there, choose Empty trash on the far right side and confirm with DELETE FOREVER.

    Empty trash option in Google Drive.

    To recover a deleted document, right-click it and choose Restore. You can select more than one at once by holding down Ctrl in Windows or Command in macOS as you make your selection.

    Restore option in the Google Drive trash folder.

    If you can't find the document you're wanting to restore, it might not have actually been deleted. See the section at the bottom of this page for some help.

Things work a bit differently in the mobile app. You can access the trash to permanently delete individual documents or take them out to prevent auto-deletion, but you can’t empty the whole folder at once (unless you're using Google Drive on iPhone or iPad; see below for those directions).

  1. With the Google Docs app open, tap the menu at the top left.

  2. Choose Trash.

    You might notice that unlike the desktop version, you'll find only your deleted documents here. If you're after other kinds of files, repeat these first two steps in the Google Drive app.

  3. Whether you're deleting the file for good or pulling it out of the trash, use the small menu button next to the document to select Delete forever or Restore.

    Android Google Docs app with deleted files.

iPhone and iPad users can remove all the items from the trash in one go, but it requires the Google Drive app:

  1. Tap the three-lined menu button at the top left and then select Trash.

  2. If you're sure you want to remove everything in the folder, which could include documents, slideshows, spreadsheets, forms, and more, select the three-dotted menu button at the top right.

  3. Select Empty trash and then confirm with Delete forever.

    Google Drive trash folder on iPad.

Are Your Google Docs Really Gone?

If you've deleted a document from the trash folder, there's a good chance you simply can't get it back. You could try communicating with Google about it but they probably can't help recover a permanently deleted file.

However, are you actually sure it's been deleted? If you're trying to restore a file that you can't find, but it's not in the trash folder, you might have simply misplaced it. It's easy to compile dozens of folders and hundreds of files over time, a perfect recipe for losing things.

The first thing you should do is check recent activity. Use the small (i) button at the top right of your Google Drive account to open a details pane. In the Activity tab is a list of everything that has happened on your account. This is a great way to find something that was recently moved but not deleted; finding where you put it as easy as selecting the magnifying glass.

Recent activity screen in Google Drive.

It's possible that the file was last edited a long time ago and so it won't show up in recent activity, but you can still search for it. Open the My Drive portion of your account and use the search bar at the top to do a search for whatever it is you've lost. If you select the arrow next to the search box, there are several advanced filters you can use to narrow down the results if you need to, like to look for documents only, just shared docs, files with specific words in them, etc.

Advanced search options in Google Drive.
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