How to Purge Deleted Messages From IMAP in Outlook

Purge the Trash and Other IMAP Email in MS Outlook

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Windows has a Recycle Bin, your kitchen has a dustbin and Outlook has its Deleted Items folder to get rid of old and superfluous items. This isn't the case with IMAP email accounts, though.

If you "delete" a message in an IMAP account that's being accessed through Outlook, neither is it deleted immediately nor does Outlook move it to the Deleted Items folder.

Instead, these messages are simply marked for deletion.

Outlook will usually indicate that by graying them out, but these messages are sometimes hidden on purpose since you don't really need to see them. Still, you have to "purge" the half-gone email to actually delete them from the server.

Note: To avoid having to do this, you can set up Outlook to purge deleted messages automatically.

How to Purge Deleted Messages in Outlook

Here's how to have Outlook immediately and permanently delete messages marked to be expunged in IMAP email accounts:

Outlook 2016 and 2013

  1. Open the FOLDER ribbon from the top of Outlook. Click it if you can't see the ribbon.
  2. Click Purge from the Clean Up section.
  3. Select an appropriate option from the drop-down menu.

    Click Purge Marked Items in All Accounts to eliminate deleted messages from all IMAP accounts, but you can, of course, choose to only purge the messages in just that folder or email account if you'd rather.

Outlook 2007

  1. Open the Edit menu.
  2. Choose Purge.
  3. Select Purge Marked Items in All Accounts or pick the menu item that corresponds to that folder or account only.

Outlook 2003

  1. Click the Edit menu.
  2. Choose Purge Deleted MessagesKeep in mind that this command removes deleted items only from the current folder.
  3. Click Yes.

How to Make a Ribbon Menu Item for Purging Emails

Instead of always using these menu buttons to deleted messages, consider customizing the ribbon menu.

To do this, right-click the Ribbon and choose to Customize the Ribbon.... From the All Commands drop-down menu, add any of the purge options to the menu by selecting it and choosing Add >>.

Your options include everything accessible through the menu in the steps above, like Purge, Purge Marked Items in All Accounts, Purge Marked Items in Current Account, Purge Marked Items in Current Folder and Purge Options.

What Happens If I Don't Delete These Emails?

If you don't delete these messages regularly, it's possible that your online email account will collect too many of these yet-to-be-deleted messages and essentially fill up your account. From the perspective of the email server, the messages still exist.

Some email accounts don't allow for much storage space, in which case neglecting to purge the deleted emails will quickly exceed your allowed storage and possibly prevent you from getting new mail.

While others do give you lots of storage, it can still slowly add up over time if you don't actually remove the emails from the server that you request to be removed through Outlook.