How to Delete Text Messages on iPhone

Text messages are quick, disposable, and can be deleted after they’ve been read and replied to. But in the age of iMessage and WhatsApp, we hang onto text message threads so we can see the history of our conversations.

But there will always be some text messages you want to delete. In Messages, the texting app that comes pre-installed on every iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, text messages are grouped into conversations. It's easy to delete the entire conversation, but what about deleting individual texts within the conversation?

Illustration of a young man frantically deleting texts from his iPhone
Lifewire / Catherine Song

This article teaches you how to delete entire text message conversations and individual text messages on the iPhone and other iOS devices. Before you delete any of your texts, make sure you mean it. There's no getting texts back after you delete them.

These instructions cover Apple's Messages app on iOS 12 and up (the steps on earlier versions are fairly similar). They do not apply to third-party texting apps.

How to Delete Single Text Messages on iPhone

If you want to delete a few individual messages from a conversation while leaving the rest of the messages in the conversation untouched, follow these steps:

  1. Tap Messages to open it.

  2. Tap the conversation that has the messages you want to delete in it.

    Three iOS screens, showing Messages icon, text message in list, and the message to delete
  3. With the conversation open, tap and hold the message you want to delete until the menu pops up. Then tap More.

  4. A circle appears next to each individual message.

  5. Tap the circle next to a message to mark that message for deletion. A checkbox appears in that box, indicating that it will be deleted.

  6. Tap the circle next to all the messages you want to delete.

  7. Tap the trash can icon.

  8. Tap the Delete Message button in the pop-up menu (earlier versions of the iOS may have slightly different options in the menus, but they're similar enough that it shouldn't be confusing.

    Three iOS screens showing More button, Checkbox next to messages to delete, and Delete 3 Messages confirmation button

If you tapped Edit or More by mistake and don’t want to delete any texts, just tap Cancel to exit without deleting anything.

How to Delete Entire Text Message Conversations on iPhone

Deleting an entire conversation in Messages requires a different set of steps. Here's how:

  1. Begin by opening Messages.

  2. If you were in a conversation when you last used the app, you'll return to that. In that case, tap the back arrow (or the Messages button, depending on what version of iOS you're running) in the top left corner to go to the list of conversations.

    • Once you've found the conversation you want to delete, you have two options: Swipe right to left across it, or
    • Tap ... and tap Select Messages (in iOS 12 and earlier, tap Edit instead). Then tap the circle at the left of each conversation you want to delete.
    • If you swiped across the conversation, a Delete button appears on the conversation.
    • If you used the Edit button, a Delete button appears at the bottom right corner of the screen after you select at least 1 conversation.
    Three iOS screens showing Delete button after a swipe left, Delete confirmation button and the Delete button after Edit button was pressed in Messages
  3. Tap either button to delete the entire conversation.

Again, the Cancel button can save you from deleting anything you didn't mean to get rid of.

If you're using iOS 10 and up, there's a third option: Tap the conversation to enter it. Then tap and hold a message, and tap More in the pop-up. In the top left corner, tap Delete All. In the pop-up menu at the bottom, tap Delete Conversation

What To Do If Deleted Texts Keep Appearing on iPhone

In some cases, texts that you've deleted can still be found on your phone. This may not be a big deal, but it can definitely be a problem if you're trying to keep some information private.

If you're running into this problem, or want to know how to avoid it, check out Deleted Messages Still Showing Up? Do This.