How to Search and Delete Emails in Gmail

For many Gmail users, the sheer number of emails can pile up, so learning how to search for and delete emails is a key tool to have.

Marketing emails and spam can pile up quickly. This can be overwhelming, but it is easy to clear out emails individually or in batches.

This is also important as users try to manage their Google Drive storage, and want to clear out clutter.

This post describes how to clear out emails using Gmail as the example, but most email providers have similar functionality.


There are multiple ways to filter and search on Gmail. Log into your Google account in a browser on a computer for the easiest and most complete choices.

At the very top bar on the Gmail page, Google displays a search bar made specifically for looking through email.

Users can type in any text, including another person’s email address, part of the subject of an email, and even text from the body of the email.

The resulting search will find the search term in any part of an email. So by typing in Flight, you would find emails from, an email with the subject “your upcoming flights” and an email from a friend where they are talking about the flight of the bumblebee.

Alternately, you can filter your search so that the only results are matches to a particular part of an email.

To filter emails based on certain parameters, click on the ticked lines on the right side of the search bar to view built in filtering options.

Here users have the option to conduct a search with MULTIPLE parameters as well as searching within a single category.

Users can input info in the following categories.

  • From
  • To
  • Subject
  • Has the words
  • Doesn’t have
  • Size (greater than or less than)
  • Date within
  • Location search
  • Has attachment.

This allows for far more detailed searches and can help find very specific emails.

To clear out unwanted emails, this functionality is very useful. A common example is the older_than: search operator.

For example, if a user typed older_than:1y It would show all the emails older than 1 year old.

Another example is entering a specific email address in the From field to select all of a particular kind of ad. Many companies send order information and billing information from a different email address than the one they use for ads.

For all the search operators, check out the list on Googles website.

Deleting Emails

With the understanding of how to search on Gmail, we can now use those tools to delete old emails.

To delete specific emails from a sender who sends a lot of junk, search for the senders email address in the From field. Then click on the top left selection box to select all, and hit the trash bin. This will select all emails from that sender and send them to the trash folder.

Before deleting them, if this is a legitimate company that you want to stop receiving mail from, then unsubscribe by using the link at the bottom of the email. If the email is spam or phishing, users should never click on any links in the email. Instead, report it as spam or phishing by clicking on the icon of a stop sign with an !, so Google learn to filter those emails into the junk folder.

To delete old emails en-masse, users can use the search operator with the date field.

To do this, type older_than:1y into the search bar and press enter. Hit the select all box to select all conversations on that page. Once that is done an option will pop up that says either “Select all conversations that match this search” or “x conversations are selected.” Sometimes the number may be in the tens or hundreds of thousands.

Once that is selected users can click on the trash button and it will attempt to delete as many of emails as it can. Typically, it will struggle and fail to delete all of them. The best strategy is to wait a short while and then repeat this process until it successfully clears them all. It may need to be done multiple times.

This process can be done with any search operator. We recommend you glance through the emails before you delete all, and uncheck any you might want to keep.

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