How to Empty the Trash Quickly in Mac OS X Mail

Man and trash cans
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Rid your email accounts of unwanted messages quickly by emptying the "Trash" folder in OS X Mail.

With a Safety Net

The Trash folder in Apple's Mac OS X Mail is an essential safeguard for scatterbrained people like me. I can't count how often the Trash has saved me from "accidentally" deleting an essential email message.

The never ending usefulness of the Trash folder notwithstanding, it is a good idea to empty it from time to time to make room for new accidentally deleted messages and to speed things up in general.

Have OS X Mail Empty the Trash Automatically—Or Do It On Demand

Of course, Mail can do this on its own in a smart manner.

If you are a proud control freak, though—or for the quick new start in between—, a manual and still very fast way to empty the Trash folder (or, to be more precise, all the Trash folders in all accounts) exists.

Empty the Trash and Erase Deleted Messages in OS X Mail

To empty the Trash folder in OS X Mail and permanently erase deleted messages:

  1. Verify no mail you may need to recover is still in any account's Trash folder.
  2. Press Command-Shift-Backspace.
    • ​This will empty the trash and purge deleted mail from all the accounts you have set up in OS X Mail; to empty the Trash for a specific account:
      1. ​Select ​Mailbox | Erase Deleted Items from the menu and pick the desired account from the menu that has appeared.
  3. Click Erase.

Empty the Trash Quickly in Mac OS X Mail 1–3

To empty the Trash folder fast in Mac OS X Mail:

  1. Press Command-K.
  2. Click OK if you are sure you won't lose anything essential.

(Updated June 2016, tested with Mac OS X Mail 3 and OS X Mail 9)