Why can’t I delete emails from my iOS 8 iPhone?

Do you know what’s worse than getting spam about enlarging your penis, using Viagra and losing weight?

Not being able to delete them!

After ditching my Galaxy S4, I practically live off my iPhone 6 plus but there were still a few things that I couldn’t do that really bothered me.

For example, a few months ago I added my vonnie@fixedbyvonnie.com account to my iPhone.

Emails started to cascade in like a veritable waterfall of work and I was happy.  All was well.

That is until I received my first load of crap emails:

  • Score with Babes! Limited time offer!
  • Sex for hours: Viagra Slime
  • Your wife need your attention? Solve all the problems with IT.

Allow me to cordially answer each one:

  • Yes, I already scored with my wife so back off.
  • Having sex for hours isn’t an issue and…
  • I have no idea what IT has do with giving my wife attention.  Oh yeah, and learning English grammar might help with your open rates.

In the next instant, I impulsively swiped the subject to the left and tapped the big red Trash button.

Deleting an iOS Mail Message from your inbox

But then exactly 2 seconds later I received the following (and positively vexing) warning:

Unable to Move Message
The message could not be moved to the mailbox Trash

I think I grimaced and exclaimed something like:

Why the f*(k not?

Unable to Move Message.  The message could not be moved to the mailbox Trash

Tapping OK vaporized the warning but my defiant email crawled its way back into my inbox, mocking me for not being able to perform such a simple task.

This is absurd.  If this is happening (or has happened) to you you don’t have to take it.

Here’s how I fixed it.  Following these steps should work for you but if not just shoot me an email or tweet me and I’ll see what I can do.

We’re about to get physical yo

Forcing emails to delete

  • Crack your knuckles.
  • Roll your neck.
  • Shrug your shoulders
  • Bounce on your tip toes like you’re Rocky.

We’re about to knock this error out like Buster Douglas did to Mike Tyson back in 1990.

Let’s start with what worked for me: changing the mailbox behavior.

1. Changing Mailbox Behaviors

Tap your way to Settings, choose Mail, Contacts and Calendar and touch your email account from the list of displayed accounts.

Now open the specific settings for your account by tapping the account name on the next screen (the screenshot below).  In the graphic below you can see my vonnie@fixedbyvonnie.com is tucked under the IMAP section.

Touch that and get ready to rumble.

iOS 8 IMAP Mail Settings

On the next screen you’ll see a bunch of tech jargon about your account name, email address, description and server values.

Just flick past all that to the bottom of the screen and tap Advanced.

IMAP server settings

In the Advanced screen under Mailbox Behaviors tap Deleted Mailbox.

Mailbox behavior in iOS 8

Now get into position because you’re about to land a hard right uppercut to the error…

Advanced Mail Behavior Settings

Touch the Trash setting under On the Server so that the check mark moves from On my Phone to the server.

Now just back out and hit Done.  In other words, hit the Advanced button in the upper left corner of the screen, the Account button in the same location of the previous screen and then tap Done in the upper right corner of the Account screen (the one with all the server stuff).

Revisit your unwanted mails and start deleting the dross.

2. Check your IMAP Prefix

If that doesn’t work you should make sure your IMAP Path Prefix is correct.

If you scroll down on the bottom of that Mailbox Behaviors screen you’ll see a bevy of incoming settings.   Make sure IMAP Path Prefix has a single forward slash “/” or says INBOX.

Check your IMAP Prefix in the iOS 8 Mail app

3. Nuke the account

If your intractable phone still adamantly refuses to delete your spammy emails then you need to delete the email account itself.  This typically doesn’t delete the emails inside the account but you should double check with your email service just to make sure.

Deleting the account is all too easy.  Just touch your account from Mail, Contacts, Calendars and hit the big red Delete Account text near the bottom of the screen (why is it easier to destroy things then it is to build them? If you know leave me a comment)

iOS 8 IMAP Mail Settings

The Bottom Line

There’s nothing more infuriating than telling your phone to do something and having it say the equivalent of:

Hell no

The iPhone is a smartphone but feels like a dumb phone when it fails mundane tasks like deleting emails.

If this happens to you, you can usually make it work by:

  • Changing the mailbox behaviors
  • Fixing the IMAP path prefix
  • Deleting and re-adding the entire email account

Alright, so that’s enough from me now I want to hear from you.  Tell me about your experience deleting spam mail (Hold on I think I just figured out a new word.  I’ll turn it into a contraction because it smells bad.  Check this out: I declare that “Spam email” is now called “S’mail” – how’s that for a neologism?)

Okay I’ve got to run.  I need to delete a new email that just popped in about Britney Spears donating her eggs to the Prince of Egypt.  Don’t ask.

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Posted in Apple, Mobile, Smartphones, Smartphones, Tablets Tagged with: ,
  • That totally worked!!! You are a life saver

  • 100rican

    Thank you! Vonnie, your help is on speed dial!

  • Natasha Greenman-Ruzynski

    I LOVE YOU!! Thank you so much!! I was getting so frustrated with not being able to delete messages!! Thank you! Thank you!! 🙂

  • Julie Douglas

    this was brilliant, BUT…!! I’d had two days of head scratching and phone calls with Apple because my email notification didn’t DING when mail came in. Eventually I wiped my phone and started from scratch and the ding worked… but the emails wouldn’t go to trash. i followed your fabulous steps above, and had to delete the email to have success, but then, guess what.. the ding isn’t working again. AAAAAAARGH… If I have to choose between the ding and deleting, I’ll not be happy..

  • Shtew

    I can move messages, and in theory, Delete them…but…the next time I check email, they all come back again…3 different accounts…it’s now up yo over 11K messages that continually reload no matter how many times I Delete them…:-(
    Even after I delete them from the server via my office computer…they all come back to my iPhone, EXCEPT for my mac/me.com account…those stay gone.
    I have no idea what kind/type of email acct’s they are…it’s all just email to me…;-)
    This all started after the last iOS update…it never was an issue before.
    I just want them to be gone!
    “Jane…stop this crazy thing…!”
    iPhone 4s, iOS9

  • k742720

    Your solution worked. Thanks very much.