Mass Delete Gmail: 6 Ways to Clear Your Email Clutter

Are you like me and have a habit of letting your Gmail Inbox get big? Maybe you have thousands of unread messages? I won’t tell. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to filter and delete emails in Gmail using tabs, email sender, pattern matching, dates, statuses, email filtering, and search operators.

I want to highlight that this tutorial is not about closing your Gmail account . This is about easy email maintenance and removing unwanted emails. Also, I’ve kept these examples simple. These “how-to” steps should work in the free Gmail and Google Workspace (previously G Suite). However, if you use an email client such as Microsoft Outlook, these steps will not work since the menu options are different.

Also, I use a desktop when mass deleting Gmail. The layout options and the way search operators work vary but are more manageable than tablets or mobile devices.

How to Delete All Promotional Emails

Google tries to sort your mail by predefined tabs. One of these tabs is called “Promotions.” These are probably your least important emails, so it’s a good starting place. Some examples from my Promotions tab include:

  • Newsletters
  • Daily coupon or deals emails
  • Promotions from merchants
  • Product announcements
  • Webinar reminders

Another benefit of starting with this tab (or folder) is that you probably have multiple pages of email messages. The number of emails showing depends on your account settings but is typically 50 messages per page. As a result, some folks repeat the deletion process for each page. However, there is a more efficient method.

  1. Click your Gmail Promotions tab.
  2. Scan the items to see if you should unsubscribe to any. This is preferable so you won’t get future emails.
  3. See if any items have value or are Starred ✰. If so, drag these emails to another tab to get them recategorized.
  4. Click the checkbox at the top. This will select all emails.

For folks who like Gmail keyboard shortcuts, you can use * + a to Select All. However, this is one of the shortcuts where I find it easier to use menus.

Gmail check box for all item statuses.
Checking all promotion emails

  1. If you have multiple pages, you have a new option. You should see a new link for Select all conversations in Promotions. See [D] below. 
Display of Gmail menu icons and options.
Gmail deletion indicators

Your header should now show All conversations in Promotions are selected along with some other items:

[A] The enabled checkbox. Each email should be checked, as well.

[B] The Delete icon.

[C] A note indicating the number of selected messages for the page.

[D] An email count of all messages in Promotions. Sometimes I have seen Google omit the count.

  1. Click the blue hyperlink to Select all messages in Promotions. [D]
  2. The top section will change to show that all messages are selected.
Gmail showing count of selected Promotions emails.
  1. Click the Trash can button.
  2. On the Confirm bulk action dialog click the OK button.

Depending on how many email messages you’re deleting, it may take a little bit. In my case, the screen would show a yellow Loading.. message at the top.

You can also use the same how-to steps above to bulk delete emails in Gmail folders. Instead of using Promotions, select a folder from the left pane.

How to Mass Delete Gmail by Email Status

Some people may not want to delete ALL emails in a given tab. Fortunately, Gmail allows us to delete based on the email’s status. But unfortunately, an email can only have one status if using the drop-down menu.

The email statuses include:

  • All
  • None
  • Read
  • Unread
  • Starred
  • Unstarred

These status selections display when you click the down arrow control ▼ next to the main checkbox. Instead of checking the box, which defaults to “All” emails, you can filter by a status subset.

Gmail status type drop-down menu choices.
Mass delete Gmail by status

This feature is handy if you want to keep unread items or ones you’ve starred for some reason.

How to Delete All Emails from One Sender or More

Gmail also allows you to delete emails from specific senders. It does this by building a temporary search filter. In the case of multiple email senders, Gmail appends each address with an OR clause.

  1. Glance at your inbox and look for frequent email senders.
  2. Check the box to the left of one of the emails. You can click multiple email senders. A series of additional icons will appear.
  3. Click the More Actions icon above the Tabs. It’s the 3 dot icon 3 vertical dots menu item..
  4. Select Filter messages like these.
Filter Gmail by multiple senders.
Multiple senders were selected for the filter.

  1. A new panel opens with your checked email address or addresses.
Using search filter dialog before mass delete Gmail.
Filter criteria at the top and the option to include attachments or chats.

  1. [Optional] You may want to filter out emails with chats or attachments. Tick each check box.
  2. Click the Search button in the lower right.
  3. Gmail will now show emails from that email filter.
  4. Check the box in the top left corner to select all the emails that show. If you have more pages, you’ll also see another link, “Select all messages that match this search.”
  5. Click the Delete icon.

Let’s Rethink Newsletters

I imagine most people have their email newsletters flow into Gmail. There’s nothing wrong with this, especially if it’s good content. However, I think an email application is the wrong place for these. It’s too difficult to find your items even if you use labels. Instead, I think a “read-it-later” apps are a better choice.

These apps typically allow you to highlight passages and add notes. And if the email doesn’t add value, you can delete as normal. However, you can read the contents without having the other email distractions. You can check my tutorial on using the Omnivore App with email newsletters and how to use a Gmail forwarding rule to reroute them.

Show Me How Video

Click the image below to see the 4-minute video on deleting emails from one email address and multiple email addresses. You may use the chapter marks to jump from one example to another. The video will open on a new page along with the transcript.

Thumbnail image for How To video.

Who Sends Me the Most Email?

One frequent question I get from people is, “How do I find and delete emails from the most frequent sender?”. The short answer is there is no filter for that information. Google provides a lot of filters and options, but “most frequent sender isn’t one of them.”

Various tools or services can assist, such as emailanalytics.com. They are a service that interacts with your Google email. They are primarily designed to provide stats to businesses on how their support or sales teams are performing. However, you can use the paid service as an individual.

Below is an idea of the type of data the tool provides. What is appealing is that the stats also include interactions such as emails you sent to them.

Frequent distribution from Email Analytics.

Another option comes from Ryan Baumann. This method requires you to download your email data using Google Takeout. You can then apply some GREP commands from the command line. GREP is used on Linux machines.

Once you’ve identified your most frequent senders, you could go about deleting their emails using the previous steps.

How to Delete Gmail Based on Text

The above strategy works well when you want to delete all the content from a sender. However, sometimes, the sender has multiple types of emails, such as “alerts” and “specials,” under the same email address. In this case, you want to delete a subset.

For example, I use a security plugin that sends emails ranging from webinars to alerts. If I look at conversations, I can tell there are items I want to delete.

Filtered Gmail by text and additional filters bar.
Additional filter bar shows under search text

You might notice that when you filter Gmail by typing in the search bar, you get an additional menu below the search box. These choices provide more refinement options. For example, you can filter for unread emails.

One search refinement is to use the subject: modifier. In the example above, Gmail will look for “Wordfence.com” anywhere. However, if I just wanted to find emails where “wordfence” was in the Email subject line, I could type:

subject:wordfence

How to Delete Gmail by Message Size

This method is best suited to finding emails that are very large and add to your storage problems. Regarding email attachments, I often end up with files in multiple locations. If the attachment is important, ensure you’ve downloaded it and put it somewhere safe. In the example below, I used the search message size criteria of 10M, but you can change that value.

Query to find email greater than 10mb.
Query to find large emails greater than 10MB

  1. Go to the top of your Inbox.
  2. In the search box area, type larger:10m.
  3. Your email will show emails that are greater than 10 MB.
  4. Check any emails you wish to delete.
  5. Click the Delete icon.

You don’t need to add a space after the colon when using search refinements.

How to Delete Old Emails by Age

Although Google has added some time filters to Gmail, several handy search operators exist. The first format uses a date operator and a time qualifier. The operators which can be typed into the search bar include:

  • After:
  • Before:
  • Older:
  • Newer:

For example, if I wanted to delete old emails that were before January 1, 2010, I could enter: before: 01/01/2010

Gmail query to find email before 1/1/2010.
Searching for emails before 1/1/2010

You might wish to add another search query based on your time query. In the example below, I’m using two search qualifiers. The first [A] is date driven, and the second is the email subject [B]. I’ll see email messages before 1/1/2010 and have the word “westhost” in the subject line.

Gmail query with before date and subject text.
Search for Westhost emails before 1/1/2010

Another time option is even more granular and allows you to specify the number of hours, days, months, or years. For example, in the search bar, you can type:

newer_than:2h

This command will pull up email items you’ve received within the past 2 hours.

How to Recover Deleted Gmail Items

Gmail does have a safeguard when it comes to deleted emails. This is helpful if you’ve mistakenly deleted unread emails. They disappear from your Inbox or another tab but remain for 30 days. This is why your file storage number doesn’t immediately change.

The deleted emails get temporarily stored in the Trash folder. You can see this folder in the left folder pane. The emails in this folder get purged every 30 days unless you opt to do it sooner. This means you can restore and move these emails to a different folder.

  1. From the left folder pane, select Trash. Or you can type in:trash in the search box.
Using search bar to find Gmail trash items.
Finding deleted Gmail items to restore

  1. Find the emails you wish to restore.
  2. Check the box to the left of each email you’d like to recover.
  3. Click the Move to icon on the top toolbar.
  4. Select the destination folder for the emails.

Google Storage Plays a Role

Sometimes you must delete emails because you’re running out of storage space. Gmail provides each user with a large pooled storage allotment. However, the large email volume can make finding your items harder. This is why we often need to delete non-essential items.

The first thing to know is that your “total storage” is not just for your Google email. Google allocates 15 GB on the free account with other Google assets like Google Photos, Google Sheets, and Google Drive.

How Much Google Storage Have I Used?

You’ll see an indicator if you scroll to the bottom of your Inbox. The numbers will appear on the left of the Terms. So, for example, in my account, I’ve used 8.92 GB. And if you don’t want to scroll to the bottom from any Gmail tab, you can press Ctrl + f to pull up the search box and type “GB.”

Google storage indicator in Gmail.
Google storage indicator

I can see my total allocation and how much I’ve used. I also can get more details about my other Google products by clicking the small external link icon.

Graph showing storage by Google products.
Storage breakdown by Google properties

Troubleshooting Tips

Sometimes when you apply a search option to your email, you can get in a stuck state. In other words, you click the X in the search bar to clear the results and then click away. The problem is your search results may still be there. Even if you hit the Refresh button, the same email results show.

Gmail search close icon.

My workaround is to click Inbox from the left navigation pane.

Gmail Inbox folder.

Key Points & Takeaways

Remember, these tips may not get you to “Inbox zero”, but they will make focusing on the important items easier. And, if you go overboard, you’ve got 30 days before those trashed items are gone for good.

  • Deleting Promotional Emails: Start with the Promotions tab, as these are usually less important emails. Select all emails in this tab and delete them. Make sure to unsubscribe from any unwanted senders to prevent future emails.
  • Deleting by Email Status: Gmail allows you to delete emails based on their status (All, None, Read, Unread, Starred, Unstarred). This feature is useful if you want to keep unread items or ones you’ve starred.
  • Deleting by Sender: Gmail allows you to delete emails from specific senders by building a temporary search filter. You can select multiple email senders and delete all their emails at once.
  • Deleting by Message Size: This method is useful for finding large emails that are adding to your storage problems. Use the search query larger:10m (or any other value) to find and delete large emails.
  • Deleting Old Emails by Age: Use the operators After:, Before:, Older:, and Newer: in the search bar to delete old emails. For example, to delete emails that were before January 1, 2010, you could enter: before: 01/01/2010.
  • Troubleshooting: If you get stuck in a search option, click Inbox from the left navigation pane to clear the results.