How to Empty Trash on Android

Rather than a unified trash can or recycling bin, most apps have their own trash folder

What to Know

  • There isn't a single, system-wide trash folder that holds all deleted files.
  • The Files app is close to the Windows desktop: three-lined menu > Trash, then All items > Delete > Delete.
  • Apps like Drive, Keep, and Gmail each have their own trash. You must open those apps to clear those trash folders.

This article explains how to empty trash on Android to free up space and strengthen your privacy. Most deleted files aren't permanently deleted until the contents of the trash folder are cleared.

How to Delete Trash on Android

There isn't a single way to empty the trash on Android because there isn't just one trash folder (more on this below). However, one place that could be considered the 'Android Recycle Bin' is the file manager built-in to your phone.

For example, Google's Files app provides an interface for finding screenshots and other locally stored images, plus downloaded APK files, documents, and more. Here's how to delete items from the trash folder in the Files app:

  1. Tap the three-lined menu button at the top of the Files app.

  2. Choose Trash.

  3. Tap All items to select everything in the trash folder, or manually select specific files if you want to keep some of them.

  4. Choose Delete, and then tap Delete again on the confirmation prompt.

    Highlighted steps to delete files in the Files app in Android.

Deleting Other Android Trash

The Files app isn't the only place on an Android device with a trash folder, so it's also not the only place files go when they're deleted. There are also other areas of the device that could be considered to have a 'trash' component you can clear.

For example, the images and videos deleted from your Google Photos account, that are already backed up online, are stored in that trash folder. Permanently removing Google Photos files frees up storage space in your Google account.

A similar trash folder is available for Gmail, Google Keep, Contacts, and other apps. If you delete anything in a Google Drive product, like Docs, Sheets, or Slides, empty the Google Drive trash folder to clear them out for good.

If you have mobile access to your cloud storage service, such as Dropbox, OneDrive, or MEGA, you'll find a trash folder there, too. Again, the folder in each of these apps is only for that app's deleted files.

You might also consider malware as trash, in which case, there are free antivirus apps for Android that we recommend you check out. When a virus scanner locates a threat, it will remove it automatically, bypassing any sort of trash folder completely. However, some virus scanners might have a quarantine folder to store threats until you decide what to do with them; clearing that would be akin to deleting the trash.

Where Is the Android Recycle Bin?

Unlike desktop operating systems that have dedicated trash bins for deleted files and folders, like the Recycle Bin in Windows, there isn't a central trash bin on Android devices.

One example of this can be seen when you delete texts. Instead of being sent to a trash folder when they're removed, they're simply gone. This is why restoring deleted Android texts isn't a straightforward process.

However, as we explained above, many apps do include their own trash folder. For example, when you delete a downloaded file, it goes into a trash folder until you clear it out.

On that note, most trash folders, including all of Google's, automatically delete their contents on a schedule, usually 30 days after the file was deleted. This is in place to give you an opportunity to retrieve the deleted file if you wish to.

  • How do I empty the email trash?

    Tap the three-line menu at the top left, then Trash, then Empty trash now Empty. Emails are automatically deleted after they've been in the trash for 30 days. If time is of the essence, we have an article on How to Delete Email Faster on Android if you are interested.

  • How do I clear the cache on an Android phone?

    Go to: Settings > Apps, tap an app, then tap Storage > Clear Cache. Clearing this information is usually done to fix issues with an app, but, much like emptying a trash folder, it also frees up space on your device. Our article on

    Clearing Android cache data goes into further detail.

  • How do I find a photo I deleted on an Android phone?

    In the Photos app, select Library from the bottom menu, then Trash, tap-and-hold one or more photos you want to restore, then Restore Restore.

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