When to Archive or Delete an Email in Gmail

When using Gmail, you can choose between archiving and deleting emails after reading them – helping you keep your inbox cleaner, and your mind less cluttered.

But what’s the difference between Gmail archive and deleting an email? And when should you archive, and when should you delete?

Let’s take a look:

What Does Deleting an Email in Gmail Mean?

As you might suspect, when you delete an email in Gmail, you’re getting rid of it for good. Although Gmail will keep your email for a while (in case you change your mind or deleted it by mistake), it won’t keep it for more than 30 days.

When an email has been deleted, you’ll be able to find it in the Trash folder for that 30-day grace period. After that period is up, you won’t be able to get it back. You might want to set up a recurring task in your favorite to-do app to periodically check that you haven’t accidentally deleted an important email.

What Does Archiving an Email in Gmail Mean?

Archiving an email in Gmail doesn’t entirely delete the email – it merely removes it from your inbox and moves it to the All Mail tab.

You can always find the email again in the future – it’s not gone forever as it would be if you deleted it.

Another handy feature of archiving emails is that if someone does reply to that email, it will return to your inbox – it won’t be lingering in the archive unnecessarily.

You can always unarchive your emails by choosing the Move to Inbox option.

When to Archive and When to Delete Emails

There are certain instances when it makes more sense to archive rather than delete an email, and vice versa.

Archiving Emails Is Best For

  • When you think you’ve finished with an email thread and you think it’s unlikely you will get another response
  • When you have an important email with data in it that you might need to access in the future – but not often. Simply use Gmail’s search function to find it.
  • Helping you keep a cleaner and more streamlined inbox

Deleting Emails Is Best For

  • When you never need to re-access an email – but you have to be sure
  • Getting rid of spam that lands in your inbox (although if it’s persistent, you might want to filter these messages and delete them automatically)
  • When you need to clean up your free storage with Gmail – even though they offer 15GB (but that’s across Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos). Deleting old and unread emails is a great way to claw some of this storage back.

Additional Reading: How to Retrieve Archived Emails in Gmail

Everyone uses archiving and deleting slightly differently, but these are some best practices guidelines to help you take control of your inbox.


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