How to empty Trash on Mac and what to do if Mac's Trash won't empty?

Usually, deleting files and emptying Trash — or Bin — is no big deal. All you have to do is click on the Trash icon and choose Empty Trash, and it should be gone. In some cases, though, it does not work as expected.

What if MacBook Trash won’t empty? In this article, we’ll cover 7 fixes that should help force delete Trash Mac users can easily repeat and get rid of unnecessary files forever.

Where is Trash on Mac?

On Mac, Trash is a folder that allows you to store files before deleting them completely or recovering some or all of them. It means that sending files to Trash does not remove them permanently; instead, the best way to describe it is as a temporary recycler.

Like with all things Mac, there are different ways to access it. Here’s how to find Trash on Mac: 

  1. Click the Trash icon from the Dock. 
  2. Open a new Finder window, click Go > Go to folder, and type Trash pressing Return afterward.

Emptying Trash is no difficult task — just click Empty with the folder open. Now that you know where Trash is and how to empty it, let’s move on and learn how to force empty Trash on Mac.

How to empty Trash on Mac?

Sometimes, the first reason why some of the system applications don’t run smoothly is an outdated OS. So, if you can’t empty Trash on Mac, make sure your macOS is up-to-date.

If your Mac’s running the latest version of the macOS but Trash still misbehaves, try the following fixes.

Did you know?

There is more than just one Trash folder 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.

1. Clear Trash automatically using CleanMyMac X

There are a number of ways that involve a decent amount of Mac technical knowledge. To avoid that and the time it takes to make some of them work, there is a quicker way — using a problem-fixer tool for Mac.

How to clear all your trash bins:

  1. Download CleanMyMac X (get the app for free here).
  2. Select Trash Bins from the sidebar.

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

2. Restart your Mac 

The reason why Trash won’t empty on your Mac may be that something that’s in Trash is still being used. It can be some file or part of the application. To fix it, you need to terminate every active process on your Mac. A simple restart of your MacBook should help you out.

  • Go to the Apple menu in the top menu.
  • Click Restart to reboot your Mac.

This way, it will force close any apps that are still running. Now, try to empty the Trash. 

3. Use safe mode 

Safe mode allows your Mac not to load specific software, such as login items and system extensions not required by macOS, during startup. Using safe mode, you can check whether some app or software interferes with normal Trash functioning.

For an Intel-based Mac:

  1. Go to the Apple icon in the top menu.
  2. Click Restart.
  3. As your Mac reboots, hold down the Shift key. 
  4. Release the key when the Apple logo and a progress bar appear. “Safe Boot” should appear in the upper-right corner of your screen.

For a Mac with Apple silicon:

  1. Shut down your Mac and wait for 10 seconds.
  2. Press and hold the power button until the startup options window shows up.
  3. Select a startup disk.
  4. Press the Shift key and click Continue in Safe Mode.
  5. Release the Shift key.

Now, you’ve entered your Mac in safe mode, which means that no third-party applications or startup items will load.

You should be able to empty Trash as you normally would and then Restart your Mac again to get back to normal mode.

    4. Force empty Trash on Mac using Terminal

    There is another way to force empty Bin Mac users will love — Terminal. 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 followed by a space and don’t hit Return after (it’s important).
    3. Now, open Trash in the Dock and drag and drop files currently in the Trash into the Terminal window.
    4. Now, press Return.
    5. Enter your password to confirm and press Return once again.
    6. Now, hit the Return button to empty the Trash. 

    Hope that did help to empty the Trash. If not, let’s move on to the next solutions.

    5. Use the Option key to empty the Trash

    In case you can’t open the Trash to delete all that’s inside, there is a way to do it from the Dock. Using the Option key, you can initiate options and clear the Trash without opening the folder.

    Here’s how to do that:

    1. Find the Trash icon in Dock.
    2. Hold the Option key (or Option-Shift) and right-click the Trash icon.
    3. Click Empty Trash.
    4. Confirm when the pop-up window appears.

    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.

    6. Repair Disk Permissions

    As mentioned in this article, CleanMyMac X is an app that can work wonders for Macs. It comes with a whole suite of tools that solves 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 it for free here).
    2. Select the Maintenance tab from the sidebar.
    3. Now tick “Repair Disk Permissions” and click Run.
    Repair disk permissions in Maintenance module CMMX

    It should be working 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. 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.

    7. 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. 

    Command + Option + Delete

    Caution: there’s no way back! Use Command + Option + Delete if you want to completely remove a file. It won’t go to Trash, so you won’t be able to restore it later.

    Check if your files are locked

    If you can’t empty the Trash — or Bin — maybe it’s because your files are locked from deletion.

    The option to lock files on Mac is found under the Get info menu if you Control + click on any file.

    • So open the Trash and look for files that won’t be deleted. 
    • Control + click on the file and choose Get info.
    • Now, deselect the Locked checkbox.

    Try if the Trash empties this time.

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

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