Force empty Trash on Mac: 5 tips to solve Mac Trash Bin problems

It can be frustrating when you need to empty the Trash, and it isn’t immediately possible, for whatever reason. 

5 tips for emptying your digital Trash on Mac

1. Restart your Mac 

  1. Go to the Apple icon in the top menu 
  2. Click on Restart to restart your Mac 
  3. This way it will force close any apps that are still running 
  4. Now try to empty the Trash. 

If the most common method works — which should because the most irritating message that often pops up when trying to empty the Trash is that something in it is still being used — then we have a few more tricks that should get the job done.

2. Clear Trash using CleanMyMac X 

There are a number of additional ways that involve a decent amount of Mac technical knowledge. To avoid that, and the time it takes to make some of them work — not only for emptying the Trash, but for other problems that Mac users can encounter — there is a quicker way: using a problem-fixer tool for Mac.

    Did you know:

    There are more than just one Trash bin on your Mac. Many apps also create their own "trashes" somewhere deep in system folders. Such trash bins may take up a significant amount of disk space.

    How to clear all your trash bins:

    1. Download CleanMyMac X (get a free version here)
    2. Click on the Trash Bins tab

    Not only will this empty this main macOS Trash, it will also clear out all other Trash bins on your Mac.

    3. Use Safe Mode 

    Now this fix requires a bit more Mac technical know-how. 

    1. Go to the Apple icon in the top menu
    2. Click on Restart to restart your Mac
    3. As your Mac reboots, hold down the Shift key 
    4. Release the key when the Apple logo and progress bar appears 
    5. Now you’ve entered your Mac in Safe Mode, which means that no third-party applications or startup menu items will load
    6. You should be able to empty Trash as you normally would, and then Restart your Mac again to get back into it the normal way. 

    4. Use Terminal to empty Trash 

    With this option, you need to be careful. Entering the wrong command could clear out a lot more than the Trash on a Mac.

    1. Open Terminal — you should be able to find this using Spotlight Search or in Utilities > Terminal 
    2. Once Terminal is open, type in sudo rm –R followed by a space and don't hit Enter after
    3. Now open Trash in the Dock and drag and drop all of the files currently in the Trash into the Terminal window 
    4. Now hit the Enter button to empty the Trash. 

    Terminal isn't to be opened and used lightly. Input the wrong command and you could cause a whole load of trouble. So use this approach only if you are confident. 

    And finally, another way to empty the Trash is to repair disk permissions. This could be why you aren't able to empty it in the first place.

    5. Repair Disk Permissions

    As mentioned in this article, CleanMyMac X is an app that can work wonders for Mac’s. It comes with a whole suite of tool that solve Mac problems, such as Trash not emptying when it should. 

    For various reasons, certain permissions on your Mac may be broken. As a result, you lose the ability to do some basic tasks on your Mac, like emptying Trash. 

    1. Download CleanMyMac X (get a free version here)
    2. Click on the Maintenance tab
    3. Now tick "Repair Disk Permissions"

    It should be working normally again. CleanMyMac X can also remove piles of digital junk that can stay hidden for months, if not years. It’s a versatile tool that every Mac user would benefit from downloading. So give it a try.

    Or use Shredder

    This app also, has a Shredder tool, which is completely free, by the way. You can use it to completely erase any file or folder on your Mac. Just drag and drop any folder onto the Shredder pane and it's gone for good.

    6. Remove files bypassing Trash

    Used to dragging files to Trash? Wait, this is not the only option. Here’s a shortcut to quickly delete unwanted files on Mac, bypassing Trash. 

    CMD + Alt + Delete

    Caution: there’s no way back!

    Only CMD + Alt + Delete if you want to trash an item without completely deleting it.

    Now you are fully equipped with knowledge about Trash on Mac. Hope this article was helpful. Stay tuned for more.