How to Permanently Delete Emails in Outlook

Delete messages without sending them to the Deleted Items folder

Delete web button for email and mouse arrow on computer screen

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If your Outlook Deleted Items folder fills up quick and you don't want to take out the trash, set up Outlook to permanently delete an email. That way, the deleted message bypasses the Deleted Items folder when it is removed from Outlook. When a message is permanently deleted, there's no way to recover it.

Instructions in this article apply to Outlook 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010; and Outlook for Office 365.

Why Does Outlook Maintain a Deleted Items Folder?

The Deleted Items folder in Outlook is a convenient way to manage messages that you no longer want. The Deleted Items folder is a temporary location for the messages you delete and makes it easy to recover accidentally deleted items.

If you want to make sure a message cannot be recovered, delete it and then empty the Deleted Items folder. When you empty this folder, any messages, contacts, and other items in the folder are also permanently deleted.

When you want to avoid sending a message to the Deleted Items folder and want the message permanently deleted, there is an option.

Permanently Delete an Email in Outlook Beyond Recovery

To permanently delete a message (without having the message go to the Deleted Items folder) in Outlook:

  1. Select the message that you want to permanently delete.

    To permanently delete a folder in Outlook, go to the Folders pane and select the folder.

  2. Press Shift+Del. Or, go to the Home tab, press and hold Shift, and select Delete.

  3. A dialog box opens and warns you that the message will be permanently deleted.

    Permanent deletion Yes button in Outlook
  4. Select Yes.

Turn Off the Confirmation Dialog for Deleting Permanently in Outlook

To prevent Outlook from asking for a confirmation every time you delete a message:

  1. Go to the File tab.

    File button in Outlook
  2. Select Options.

    Options button in Account Information
  3. In the Outlook Options dialog box, select Advanced.

  4. In the Other section, clear the Prompt for confirmation before permanently deleting items check box.

    Prompt for confirmation before permanently deleting items
  5. Select OK.

Empty the Deleted Items Folder in Outlook

When you want to permanently delete all the emails that have been sent to the Deleted Items folder in Outlook, either use your mouse or the Outlook menu.

Empty the Deleted Items Folder with the Mouse

  1. Right-click the Deleted Items folder for the account or PST file you want to empty.

  2. Select Empty Folder.

    Empty Folder right-click menu item
  3. A dialog box opens and warns you that the everything in the Deleted Items folder will be permanently deleted.

    Yes button to permanently delete all items in the Deleted Items folder
  4. Select Yes.

Empty the Deleted Items Folder From the Outlook Menu

  1. Select the Deleted Items folder.

  2. Go to the Folder tab.

    Outlook 2016 showing the contents of deleted items folder.
  3. In the Clean Up group, select Empty Folder.

Empty the Deleted Items Folder When Outlook Closes

You don’t have to empty the Deleted Items folder. Instead, set up Outlook to automatically and permanently delete emails in the Deleted Items folder when you close Outlook.

To delete all items from the Deleted Items folder when Outlook closes:

  1. Go to the File tab.

  2. Select Options.

  3. In the Outlook Options dialog box, select Advanced.

  4. In the Outlook start and exit section, select the Empty Deleted Items folders when exiting Outlook check box.

    Empty Deleted Items folders when exiting Outlook option
  5. Select OK.