If you’ve been holding onto the same phone for a while, you might start to notice your messaging app begin to slow down, or take a long time to load. It might not seem like it, but text messages can take up a ton of storage up in your room once they start to add up. Older phones even required text messages to be regularly deleted due to a lack of storage, but the rise of smartphones have made storage an afterthought, especially when it comes to text messages. There are plenty of reasons to hold on to old text messages, but for some of us, it might be time to let go of the past.
Deleting your messages on Android isn’t hard, but it can be unclear how to delete every message on your phone at once without factory resetting the device. We’ll cover every method below, from deleting threads to erasing entire libraries of messages on Android. These methods may differ based on the make and model of your phone, as well as the version of software you’re running. To keep things simple, we’ll be using the standard Android Messages SMS app created by Google for Android; it’s available for free from Google Play here. If you’re using a different SMS app—be it Samsung’s standard SMS app, Verizon’s Messages, Textra, or any other app available on the Play Store—you’ll have to check within your app’s settings to find similar solutions, or you’ll want to switch to Android Messages just for the sake of this tutorial.
With all that said, let’s get started.
Deleting Individual Messages
We’ll start with the smallest, easiest way to delete texts—deleting single messages from a thread. Whether a friend sent you a piece of confidential information, or you simply don’t want a specific message showing up in a thread, deleting individual messages from a conversation can make it easy to scroll through your messages around others while being careful not to reveal someone else’s—or your own—private information.
Start by opening up the messaging thread containing texts you want to delete. Scroll through the message until you find the text you want to delete, whether it be a sent or received message. Now tap and hold your finger on the text you want to delete, and the message will highlight itself. An action bar will appear at the top of the display, and tapping the garbage can icon in the top-right corner of your display will erase the message.
Unfortunately, Android Messages doesn’t allow for multiple messages to be deleted through this way at once, though it is possible to select multiple messages inside a thread for deletion in other texting apps, including Textra (displayed below).
Deleting Messaging Threads
Of course, when it comes to deleting entire conversations, deleting messages one by one would take hours, if not longer, depending on how many texts are on your phone. Deleting old, unused threads (think old group messages and other unimportant or outdated conversations) is a great middle ground between deleting every message on your phone, and deleting nothing. It helps keep your texting app clean and clear of any non-important threads, while simultaneously keeping the messages you’ve received from close friends or family members.
To delete a thread, press and hold on the thread you wish to delete from the main messaging menu. A checkmark will appear on top of the photo icon for your texting thread, and another action bar will appear at the top of the display. When using Android Messages, you actually have to options for erasing messages: archiving, which won’t fully erase the messages but will hide them from your main messaging screen, and deletion, which erases the messages from your device.
Unlike with individual messages, Android Messages does allow for the selection of multiple threads to be both deleted and archived. Once you’ve tapped and held down on a single thread as detailed above, just tap—no holding required—on other threads to delete these as well. The same checkmark will highlight the additional thread, and you’ll be able to delete or archive your threads.
Limiting and Auto-Deleting Your Messages
If you’re trying to delete every message on your phone, even selecting and deleting message threads one at a time might be too much work for some users, depending on how many messages populate their phone. Instead, we’ll be deleting every message off your phone at once—which, unfortunately, Android Messages lacks the ability to do. So, for now, we’ll be turning our attention from Google’s messaging app over to Textra, one of our very favorite third-party applications.
In appearance, Textra has nearly the identical layout and design of Android Messages, with two main advantages: complete and total customization, and additional options and settings not offered through the Android Messages app. So, once you’ve installed Textra through the Google Play Store, fire up the app, let it complete optimization, and dive into settings by hitting that triple-dotted menu button in the top-right hand corner of your display.
Once you’ve opened the settings menu, scroll down to the very bottom of the options and find the “More Stuff” category. It’s here where we’ll find the easiest way to delete your text messages. Select “Messages to Keep,” fourth down from the top of the list, and you’ll receive a pop-up notification allowing you to customize how many messages are shown per conversation. From here, you can set your text and media message limits to the lowest applicable numbers: 25 and 2, respectively. This will delete all by the most recent 25 text messages per conversation, and all but the most recent 2 media messages per conversation, thus limiting the messages coming into your phone and keeping your conversations private. Once you’ve selected the numbers of your liking, you can tap “Okay” to close the menu, and your phone will do the rest.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a “Delete all messages” button on your phone to erase everything without wiping your entire phone’s memory through a factory reset. None of the options we listed above are perfect; deleting single messages takes far too much time, deleting messaging threads is a bit cumbersome, and limiting your messaging count helps in the future, but won’t delete every message you’ve sent or received so far. It’s for that very reason we recommend setting a message limit in Textra and deleting conversations and threads as you find appropriate; using both can not only wipe your phone of messages clean in one fell swoop, but can stop your phone from building up a huge message cache again.
The other problem with deleting message spawns from the multitude of SMS apps and selection on Android. While more choice is always a good thing, it can be pretty tough to choose one messaging app between the dozens of apps available, and each one has their own methods of saving, storing, and deleting messages and threads. We tried our best to cover messaging apps as we saw appropriate above, but obviously, if you’re unwilling to change to Android Messages or Textra, these steps might not help you in the long run. If you do need help with a specific texting app, let us know in the comments below!