New to Mac? How to empty the Trash on your Mac

Empty Trash Mac Empty Trash Context Menu

If you’re used to the Recycle Bin on Windows for unwanted items, when you move to Mac, this folder is simply named Trash. And just like a recycle bin needs to be emptied from time to time, so does the trash.

On Mac, you can empty all of your Trash or just certain items. Plus, you can have the Trash emptied automatically, so you don’t have to worry about doing it yourself. If you’re new to Mac, here is how to empty the Trash.

Empty all of the Trash

We’ve listed out four different methods that you can use to empty your entire Trash folder. This gives you plenty of options depending on what you’re doing at the time on your Mac.

Method one:

Your Trash folder sits nicely in the Dock on your Mac. So if you want to empty all of the items within it quickly, this is the easiest way. Either right-click or hold Control and click Trash. Then, pick Empty Trash.

Empty Trash Mac Dock

Method two:

If you decide to click and open the Trash to make sure that you’re ready to say good-bye to everything in it, you can click the Empty button on the top right to clear it out.

Empty Trash Mac Empty Button

Method three:

Alternatively with your Trash open, you can right-click or hold Control and click within the Trash window and pick Empty Trash from the context menu.

Empty Trash Mac Empty Trash Context Menu

Method four:

One other way to empty all of the Trash is using the menu bar. Click Finder > Empty Trash.

Empty Trash Mac Menu Bar

Empty certain files from the Trash

Maybe while doing your Mac spring cleaning, you find some files in the Trash that you’re not quite ready to part with or just aren’t sure about. But there are others you know you never want to see again.

You can remove certain files from the Trash easily. Right-click or hold Control and click on the item that you want gone for good. Select Delete Immediately from the context menu.

Empty Trash Mac Delete Immediately

Putting Trash back

Just remember, that once you empty the Trash, those items are gone forever. So, if you change your mind about a file and want to keep it, right-click or hold Control and click the item and pick Put Back from the context menu.

Trash Mac Put Back File

Empty the Trash automatically

Maybe you’re really bad about remembering to take out the trash. If so, you can set it up to be emptied automatically (which would be wonderful with our physical trash, right?).

1) Select Finder > Preferences from the menu bar.

2) Click the Advanced tab.

3) Mark the checkbox for Remove items from the Trash every 30 days.

Empty Trash Mac Automatically

You can then close the Finder Preferences window.

Empty the Trash with Terminal

Even though you’re new to Mac, you may be familiar with using command prompts or are trying to get used to using Terminal for quick actions. If so, you can empty your Trash that way too.

Navigate to and open Terminal on your Mac using Spotlight Search, Go > Utilities from the menu bar, or Applications > Utilities from your Dock. Next, open your Trash folder. Then, do the following to empty your trash with Terminal.

1) Enter the below command into the Terminal window:

sudo rm -R

(make sure to use a space after the letter R)

Do not hit the Return key.

Empty Trash Mac Terminal Command

2) Select all, one, or several files from the Trash that you want to delete and drag them into the Terminal window. You’ll see the file name(s) display in the window when you release your finger.

Empty Trash Mac Terminal File Name

3) Now hit your Return key.

4) Enter your Mac user password (which will not display) and hit Return.

You’ll see the item(s) disappear from your Trash folder.

Wrapping it up

As you can see, macOS gives you plenty of ways to empty your Trash folder. So, use what’s most comfortable for you or most convenient at the time. Which method or methods do you think you’ll use?

For related tutorials, take a look at how to skip the Trash and remove files immediately or what to do if your files won’t delete from the Trash.