How to delete text messages from an iPhone

Text messages are quick, disposable, and ready to be deleted after they’ve been read and answered. But we don’t always delete them. In the era of iMessage and WhatsApp, we’re more likely to cling to text message threads so we can see the history of our conversations.

But there will always be some text messages that you want to delete. In Messages, the texting app that comes preinstalled on every iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, all your text messages are grouped into conversations. It’s easy to delete the entire conversation, but what about individual texts within the conversation?

This teaches you how to delete entire conversations and individual text messages on iPhone and other iOS devices. Before you delete any of your texts, make sure you mean it. There is no way to get text messages back after you delete them.

These instructions only cover Apple’s Messages app on iOS 7 and up. They do not apply to third-party messaging apps.

How to delete individual text messages on iPhone

If you want to delete some individual messages from a conversation thread without touching the overall conversation, follow these steps:

  1. Tap Messages to open it.
  2. Tap the conversation that contains the messages you want to delete.

    Three iOS screens, showing the Messages icon, the text message in the list, and the message to delete

  3. With the conversation open, tap and hold the message you want to delete until the menu appears. Then tap More on the pop-up menu.
  4. A circle appears next to each individual message.
  5. Touch the circle next to a message to mark it as deleted. A check box appears in that box, indicating that it will be deleted.
  6. Check all the messages you want to delete.
  7. Tap the trash can icon in the bottom left corner of the screen.
  8. Tap the Delete Message button in the pop-up menu (earlier versions of iOS may have slightly different options in the menus, but they’re similar enough that it’s not confusing.

    Three iOS screens showing the More button, the checkbox next to messages to delete, and the Delete 3 messages confirmation button

If you’ve tapped Edit or More by mistake and don’t want to delete any text, don’t tap any of the circles. Just tap Cancel to exit without deleting anything.

Deleting an entire text message conversation

Deleting an entire conversation in Messages requires a different set of steps:

  1. Start by opening Messages .
  2. If you were in a conversation the last time you used the app, you will return to that. In that case, tap the back arrow (or the Messages button , depending on the version of iOS you’re running) in the upper right corner to go to the list of conversations. If you weren’t already in a conversation, you’ll see a list of all your conversations.
  3. Find the conversation you want to delete. You have two options: Slide your finger from right to left across it, or you can also tap the Edit button at the top left of the screen and then tap the circle to the left of each conversation you want to delete.
  4. If you went through the conversation, a Delete button appears on the right. If you used the Edit button, a Delete button appears in the bottom right corner of the screen after you select at least 1 conversation.

    Three iOS screens showing Delete button after left swipe, Delete confirmation button, and Delete button after pressing Edit button in Messages

  5. Tap either button to delete the entire conversation.

Again, the Cancel button can prevent you from deleting something if you didn’t mean to reveal the Delete button .

If you’re using iOS 10, there’s an even faster method. touch the conversation to enter it. Next, tap and hold a message, and then tap More in the pop-up window. In the top left corner, tap Delete All . In the pop-up menu at the bottom of the screen, tap Delete conversation .

What to do when deleted texts keep appearing

In some cases, the texts you have deleted can still be found on your phone. This may not be a big deal, but if you are trying to keep certain information private, it can definitely be a problem. If you run into this problem, or want to know how to avoid it in the future, take a look at this page: Are deleted messages still showing up? Do this.