How to Search Everything (Including the Trash) in Gmail

The Gmail logo.

Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

Gmail keeps trashed messages for 30 days by default, a helpful feature for people who've accidentally deleted an important message.

Although you could browse the Trash "folder" looking for misfiled messages, if you're not sure where an email went you'll likely have better luck searching your email instead of browsing folders or tags.

Gmail does not search messages in the Trash and Spam categories by default—not even when you are in the Trash category. It's easy to expand the scope of Gmail search to find and recover any message, however.

Search Everything (Including the Trash) in Gmail

To search all categories in Gmail:

  • Click Show search options.
  • Make sure All & Spam & Trash is selected under Search:.
  • Enter your search criteria and terms.
  • Click Search Mail.

Alternatively:

  • Type "in:anywhere" followed by your search terms in the Gmail search field. "In:anywhere national park" finds, for example, "national" and "park" everywhere, including Trash and Spam.

Considerations

Messages in Trash or Spam that have been manually permanently deleted cannot be recovered, even through a search. However, emails might be cached in a desktop email client (like Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird) and searched, provided you disconnect from the Internet before you look for the messages.

Although it's not common, some people who use Post Office Protocol to check email with a desktop email client will see all emails deleted from Gmail after the email program downloads it. To reduce the risk of unexpected deletions, use a Web browser to check email or configure your email client to use the IMAP protocol instead.