What is the best way to delete multiple emails in Gmail?

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 16, 2020
Updated • Oct 28, 2021
Email, Gmail

How do you delete masses of old emails, and what happens if you accidentally delete something you need?

In the early days of email, it was compulsory to sort through and delete emails to save up space. Then Google changed all of that by giving Gmail users gigabytes of free storage space. Now you no longer need to sort and delete your emails; they could just stay in your inbox forever.

This was about a decade ago, and if you've been using Gmail for that long, chances are you will start running out of storage space. Now we need to learn how to sort our inboxes and delete old unwanted emails. So whether you need to free up space or just want to get organized, here is how to delete emails in Gmail.

In this article, we will be covering the following topics with regards to deleting emails in Gmail:

  • What does it mean to delete an email?
  • Why would you want to delete emails?
  • How to delete emails?
  • How to recover deleted emails?
  • Can you automate deleting emails?

What Does it Mean to Delete Emails?

When you delete an email from your Gmail inbox, that message is moved to the trash folder. It will stay in the trash folder for a default period of 30 days. This grace period allows you to still recover emails if you accidentally deleted them. Once these 30 days are up, the messages will be deleted forever.

It is important to note that emails in the trash folder still use storage space. It is only once they are deleted forever that they will free up space in your inbox. If you go through hundreds of emails a day and constantly struggle with low storage, you can set your trash folder to delete emails at closer intervals such as one week.

Why Would You Want to Delete Emails in Gmail?

As we mentioned, storage is one of the main reasons why you should delete unwanted emails. Although Google still provides a fair bit of storage, and emails usually have a small file size, these emails quickly add up and sometimes there are large emails hidden in your inbox. And if you've gotten into the habit of keeping every single email, you might start running out of storage space soon.

If you don't have any more storage space in Gmail, you will be unable to receive any new emails until you've got more space. You can do this by buying more space or deleting unwanted emails, like that newsletter you got six years ago.

How to Delete Emails in Gmail?

You may think that deleting emails, especially if you haven't in a long time, will be time-consuming. While it is a pain to organize any backlog of files and emails, there are a few different ways you can sort your emails and delete them that make the process much easier.

How to Delete Multiple Emails in Gmail?

I'm using several work and home Gmail accounts, and manage them using Thunderbird for the most part. I started to use the Gmail application on my Pixel 3a device recently for a throwaway account just to see how it worked.

One of the main issues that I ran into was that I could not figure out how to speed up bulk operations. While it is possible to select one or multiple emails and run archive or delete operations on them, or use swipe gestures to deal with individual messages, it is not possible to select multiple messages at once.

If you want to archive or delete all inbox messages for examples, you find no option to do that quickly in the Gmail application for Android or iOS.

gmail delete archive bulk emails

Here are your options in the Gmail app:

  • Swipe a single email to the left or right to archive it.
  • Long-tap on an email to select it; select additional emails with a tap on the sender's icon. Use one of the available options displayed at the top, e.g. archive or delete, to perform the action on all selected emails.

Here is what you cannot do using the apps:

  • Select all emails that are displayed, e.g. of a folder or search.

The best option that you have is to use the Gmail web interface for these operations. While you could perform actions on single emails in the apps if you have only some listed there, it is quite a nuisance if you need to delete or archive hundreds or even thousands of them, e.g. to have zero emails in the inbox.

gmail select all emails

Here is what you need to do:

  1. Load the official Gmail site in a web browser of choice, e.g. on the Android device or a desktop / laptop PC.
  2. Select the folder that you want to manage, e.g. Inbox or Spam, or run a search.
  3. Click or tap on the table headers selector item and select "All" from the list of choices. You can also select all "read", "unread", "starred", or "unstarred" emails. All emails are auto-selected based on the selection that you make in the menu.
  4. Note that only the visible items are selected by default. You can use the "select all [...] in " option at the top to select all emails.
  5. Select the desired action, e.g. "archive", "delete", or "move".

Using the web interface is much faster than using the Gmail application as you can run the desired actions on hundreds or thousands of emails instead of just one at a time.

If you want to delete multiple emails in the Gmail web app, there are a few ways that you can do this.

  1. Log in to Gmail
  2. Manually select all the emails in your inbox that you want to delete.
  3. Click on the trash can icon at the top of your inbox to delete the selected messages.

In Gmail, you can select multiple emails to delete

Top tip: Although this way takes a bit longer, you can be more accurate in making sure you keep important emails and only remove the old and unwanted ones.

How to Delete Old Emails in Gmail?

Sometimes you may just want to delete old emails instead of sorting through all of your recent emails individually. By using the search bar in Gmail, you can easily find these old emails and delete them in a single batch.

  1. If you want to delete all emails you received on a specific date, all you do is type the date into the search bar using the YYYY/DD/MM format. Upon pressing search, Gmail will display all the emails from that date, and you can bulk select them and click on the trash can icon.
  2. If you want to delete all the older emails before a certain date, you can use the search bar once more to find them. Type in 'before:YYYY/DD/MM'. Your inbox will display all the emails before the date specified, and you can bulk select them and click on the trash can icon to delete them.
  3. Finally, another way to find older emails by using the search bar is to type in 'older_than:1y'. This will bring up all the emails older than one year. You can also use months (m) or days (d).

In Gmail you can use the search bar to find old emails

How to Delete All Unread Emails in Gmail?

Perhaps you leave your unwanted emails unread and have gotten to the point where you want to delete your unopened emails. There is an easy way to sort your emails to find only unread, read, starred, or unstarred emails so that you can perform bulk actions.

  1. Type in 'is:unread' in your Gmail search bar to display all your unread messages.
  2. Tick the box to select all emails.
  3. By default, Gmail will only select 100 emails, which are all the emails on the current page. If you want to delete all the unread emails, click on the option 'Select All Conversations' and click on delete.

By clicking on ‘Select all Conversations’ in Gmail you can delete all of your emails

How to Delete All Emails in Gmail?

Sometimes you may want to start completely fresh. The best way to do this is by deleting all of your emails and conversations. However, as a default, Gmail only selects 100 emails at a time, and having to delete multiple pages manually is no one's idea of fun. Luckily there is an easier way.

  1. In your inbox, tick the box to select all emails.
  2. Now click on 'Select all Conversations.'
  3. Click on the trash can icon to delete your selected emails.
  4. Next, navigate to your Social tab and repeat steps two and three.
  5. Finally, navigate to your Promotions tab and once again repeat steps two and three.

How to Delete All Email in the Gmail App?

Although many features work the same way in the Gmail app as it does on the desktop version. There is currently no easy way to delete bulk emails on the app. You can still use the search bar to find old emails or sort your list to only display unread emails. However, after this, you will manually have to select each email by tapping and holding the email. Once you've selected all the emails you want to delete, you can tap on the trash can icon at the top of the screen.

How to Recover Deleted Emails in Gmail?

Accidents happen, and sometimes you might delete an email that you actually need. Luckily for you, after deleting an email, it goes to the trash folder first, where it stays for a default period of 30 days before being erased forever. Here are the steps you need to take to recover an email from the trash.

  1. Open the left side menu and scroll down until you see the 'Trash' folder; click on it to open it.
  2. Here you will see all of your deleted emails from the past 30 days.
  3. Now you can scroll through the emails or use the search function to find the email you need to restore to your inbox.
  4. Once you've found the email, select it and click on 'Move' or the icon with the folder and arrow pointing to the right.
  5. Choose where you want to move the email to, and it will be restored into your inbox.

Can You Automate Deleting Email?

Perhaps you want to automatically delete emails that become too old so that you don't have to sort through them later manually. You can choose to delete old emails automatically by applying a filter. Here are the steps to set up a filter in Gmail to automatically delete old emails.

  1. Open the Gmail setting by clicking on the gear icon in the top right of the screen.
  2. Now click on 'See All Settings.'
  3. Click on 'Filters and Blocked Addresses' and then choose 'Create a New Filter.'
  4. In the new interface, you will see different fields to use to set your filter.
  5. In the 'Has the Words' field, you can add the same time queries we used to find old emails, for example, 'older_than:90d', to delete emails older than 90 days.
  6. Click on 'Create Filter' and when prompted what you want to do with the emails, choose 'Delete It.'

Bottom Line

We tend to want to hold on to all of our emails. What if I need that email tomorrow? Although Gmail does give a fair bit of storage, you may be running out of space after many years of use and have no other option than to delete emails. Luckily this process is easy enough to do, and there are multiple ways to go about deleting old messages and clearing your inbox. There is also a way to recover an email if you make a mistake by deleting it. You can also set a helpful filter to delete old emails automatically if you wish.

What is your preferred way of deleting emails? Do you use a filter to automate the process? Let us know in the comments below how you delete emails in Gmail.

How to Delete Emails in Gmail and Why You May Need To
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How to Delete Emails in Gmail and Why You May Need To
Are you wondering how to delete emails in Gmail? You may need to free up some storage? Read our article to find the best ways to delete emails in Gmail.
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  1. JMGG said on January 19, 2012 at 8:25 am

    You said that Outlook isn’t your main email client, so which is your main one?

    1. BalaC said on January 19, 2012 at 9:42 am

      I think its thunderbird

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on January 19, 2012 at 10:15 am

      It is Mozilla Thunderbird.

  2. Salaam said on September 24, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Awesome! This actually solved my problem… what a stupid bug.

  3. Claud said on December 19, 2012 at 2:08 am

    If this is the same bug that I’ve encountered, there may be another fix: (1) hover over open Outlook item in Taskbar, cursor up to hover over Outlook window item, and right-click; (2) this should give you Restore / Move / Size / Minimize / Maximize — choose Move or Size; (3) use your cursor keys, going arbitrarily N/S/E/W, to try to move or size the Outlook window back into view. Basically, the app behaves as though it were open in a 0x0 window, or at a location that’s offscreen, and this will frequently work to resize and/or move the window. Don’t forget to close while resized/moved, so that Outlook remembers the size/position for next time.

    1. Lynda said on February 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      THANK YOU Claude!!! I could get the main window to launch but could not get any other message window to show on the desktop. You are my hero!!!!

    2. Chad said on November 20, 2018 at 4:24 pm

      Solved my issue! 6 years later and this is still problem…

    3. Ivan X said on January 21, 2021 at 4:50 pm

      Fantastic. Thank you. Size did the trick.

  4. Andrew said on October 26, 2013 at 7:06 am

    This solved my Outlook problem, too. Thank you. :)

  5. Charles said on December 7, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Thank you so much, this started happening to me today and was causing big problems. You are a life saver, I hope I can help you in some way some day.

  6. garth said on November 7, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    You are a god – thank you!

  7. Faisal said on February 9, 2015 at 10:09 am

    thanks a lot…. work like charm.. :-)

  8. Simon said on March 24, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    Yah…thanks Claude. I’ve been having the same problem and tried all the suggestions…your solution was the answer. It had resized itself to a 0/0 box. Cheers

  9. Olu said on April 14, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Excellent post. This had me baffled even trying to accurately describe the problem. This fixed it for me.
    Thank you

  10. Coenig said on July 23, 2015 at 7:36 am

    Thanks a lot for the article. Don’t know why it happenend, don’t know how it got fixed, but it was really annoying and now it works :-)

  11. Fali said on January 20, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks a lot. I was facing this issue from past 3 week. I tried everything but no resolution. The issue was happening intermittently and mainly when I was changing the display of screen ( as i use 2 monitors). The only option i had was to do system restore. But thanks to you.

    1. MIki said on January 10, 2019 at 11:54 am

      I’ve been tried to sole this problem for 12hours. Your comment about changing the display of screen helped me a lot!! Thanks!!

  12. Christina said on January 20, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Thank you…don’t know why this happened but your instructions helped me fix it. Running Windows 10 and office pro 2007

  13. Oz said on July 22, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Great tip! Thanks!

  14. Tracy said on September 1, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Worked for me, too – thank you!!!

  15. shawn said on September 9, 2016 at 10:25 am

    It’s Worked for me, too
    thank you very much!

  16. Jari said on October 31, 2016 at 11:53 am

    I had a similar issue with Outlook 2013 on Windows 10 and this helped me to fix it. Thank you very much!

  17. Michel H said on November 30, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    Thank you so much. Solved!
    Considering you published this in 2012, incredible not been debugged by Microsoft.
    Thank you again. M

  18. Ziad Bitar said on January 9, 2017 at 2:00 am

    This problem was faced by only one user logging to TS 2008 r2 using outlook 2010.The issue was resolved.


  19. Anonymous said on February 15, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Great tip. Thank you!!!! If it helps, I had to use the Control Key and the arrow keys at the same time to bring my window back into view. Worked like a charm.

  20. Rochelle said on March 6, 2017 at 11:59 am

    Thank you, this worked !!!!

  21. anom1234 said on May 20, 2018 at 11:20 pm

    Man, you are a fucking god. Thanks a lot, what an annoying bug!!

  22. JC said on October 12, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    Awesome, this post solved the issue. Many thanks!

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