Email Deletion vs Recall: Can You Delete an Email You Sent?

Email Deletion vs Recall: Can You Delete an Email You Sent?

If I delete an email does it unsend? How to delete an email I sent? We answer all your questions about email deletion and recall.

Phoebe Brown

Phoebe Brown | Oct 29, 2023 | 10 mins read

Emails have become an essential mode of communication. They are widely used in both personal and professional settings. It’s important to know how to delete an email you sent if necessary. Given the litany of emails that we send and receive on a daily basis, email mistakes such as including incorrect information in the email and sending an email to the wrong person have become a common occurrence.

💡 While these mistakes may seem irreversible, you should know that email clients offer features like email deletion and recall options to correct such mistakes. 

In this article, we will explore the possibilities of deleting and recalling emails, the limitations and requirements involved, and the impact these actions could have on the recipient. By the end of this article, you will better understand how to delete or recall an email and the factors that affect the success of these actions.

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Email Deletion vs. Email Recalling 

While many believe that deleting an email is the same as recalling it, these are distinct actions. To grasp the differences, it’s essential to understand the email process.

How Email Works: A Brief Overview

  • Sending Process: When you send an email, it travels through various servers before reaching the recipient. Each server creates a copy, ensuring the email’s delivery even if one server fails.
  • Storage: After the email reaches its destination, a copy is saved in the recipient’s “Inbox” and another in your “Sent” folder. This means multiple copies of the same email exist across different servers and mailboxes.

When you delete an email from your “Sent” folder, you’re only removing your copy. The email remains in the recipient’s “Inbox” and on the servers it passed through. In contrast, recalling an email aims to remove it from the recipient’s “Inbox”. However, this isn’t foolproof and depends on factors like whether the recipient has read the email, if their email client supports recall, and other technical aspects.

Why Recall Might Not Always Work

❌ Server Delays: Emails might get delayed due to server issues, making recall ineffective if the email has already been delivered.
❌ Offline Access: Some email clients allow offline reading. In such cases, even if you recall the email, the recipient might have already seen it offline.
❌ Notifications: Many receive email notifications on their devices. Even if the email is recalled successfully, the recipient might have seen a preview.

Best Practices to Avoid Email Mistakes

✅ Double-check: Always review the recipient’s address, content, and attachments before sending.
✅ Use Delayed Send: This feature provides a short window to stop the email after sending, allowing for corrections.
✅ Educate & Train: In professional settings, regular training on email etiquette can reduce mistakes.

how to delete an email you sent

How Different Platforms Handle Email Deletion and Recall

Microsoft Outlook

How to delete mail after sending in Outlook? Microsoft Outlook, predominantly used in corporate settings, offers a unique feature called “Recall This Message.” This feature allows users to attempt to retract a sent email or replace it with a corrected version. However, its success depends on several factors, such as whether the recipient has read the email or if they’re using the same email client.

Gmail

Gmail, a dominant player in the email market, introduced the “Undo Send” feature. Users can activate this feature in the settings, allowing them a brief window (up to 30 seconds) to retract a sent email. This feature has been a lifesaver for many who’ve sent emails prematurely.

Yahoo Mail

While Yahoo Mail doesn’t have a direct recall feature, users can set up an “Out of Office” response to inform recipients that any emails received during a specific period might not be accurate or final. It’s a workaround but can be useful in some scenarios.

Apple Mail

Apple Mail, the default email client for Apple devices, doesn’t have a built-in recall feature. However, users can utilize server settings or third-party plugins to introduce a delay in sending, giving them a few moments to cancel the send action if needed.

Thunderbird

Developed by Mozilla, Thunderbird is an open-source email client. While it doesn’t have a native recall feature, users can integrate add-ons or use server-side settings to manage sent emails or introduce sending delays.

ProtonMail

ProtonMail’s emphasis is on security and privacy. Due to its end-to-end encryption, once an email is sent, it cannot be recalled. However, the platform offers a feature called “Expiration,” where users can set a timer for the email to self-destruct after being read.

Zoho Mail

Popular among businesses, Zoho Mail offers a “Recall” feature, but it’s limited to the Zoho suite. If both the sender and recipient use Zoho Mail, a sent email can be recalled within a specific time frame.

Tutanota

Tutanota, focusing on privacy, offers encrypted emails. Similar to ProtonMail, once an email is dispatched, recalling it isn’t an option. However, users can set expiration dates for their emails, after which the email content becomes inaccessible.

So, Can You Delete an Email You Sent?

Yes, you can delete an email that you sent—the copy of the email from your “Sent” folder—but as far as the email copy from the “Inbox” folder of the recipient is concerned, that is a bit tricky. It is certainly possible with the email recall feature, but with some limitations.

So, you can delete the email from your own mailbox (your sent folder). Below we discuss how to do it.

 How to Delete an Email on Gmail and Outlook?

The method of deleting an email on Gmail and Outlook is quite easy and similar. Here is how to go about it:

  1. Open your mail account (Gmail/Outlook) and go to the “Sent” folder.
  2. Now select the email that you want to delete.
  3. After having selected that particular email, click on the “Delete” button, which looks like a trash bin.
  4. Gmail conversation is moved to the bin, but in Outlook, it is moved to the recoverable items.

You should note that after deletion from the “Inbox” folder, the email still lives in the “Trash” or “Deleted Items” folder for 30 days in Gmail and Outlook, respectively. After thirty days, the email is permanently deleted.  

If you want to permanently delete the emails right away, you will have to go to the respective folder, i.e., “Trash” in Gmail and “Deleted Items” in Outlook, select the email and hit “Delete forever” in Gmail, and in Outlook select “Purge Selected Items.” At this point, emails will be permanently deleted, and you won’t be able to recover them unless your organization has a retention policy and has set up a back system in place.

Here again, you should keep in mind that you are only deleting your copy of the email from your own account, and a copy of the email will still be present in the recipient’s email account.

when you delete an email does it unsend

Does Deleting an Email Delete it from the Recipient?

No!

Unfortunately, deleting an email from your account does not delete it from the recipient’s account. It only deletes your copy of the email and does not affect the recipient’s email copy that resides in their “inbox” folder.

If you want the recipient’s copy of the email to disappear, you will have to ask them to disregard and delete it or use a feature like an email recall, which works only if the recipient has not already opened the email. If you are a Canary Mail user, consider yourself lucky. Because it lets you revoke the recipient’s access to email.

How to Revoke a recipient’s access to a mail you sent using Canary Mail?

Touted as the smartest email client, Canary Mail has a solution for almost all email-related problems. Canary has got its users back when they want to delete an email that they have already sent. Here is how you can do that by using Canary Mail’s SecureSend feature:

  • The “revoke” feature only works if you turn on the “SecureSend” option before sending the email.
  • Open the email that you want to revoke.
  • Click on the setting icon in the top right corner.
  • Click on “Revoke.”
  • In place of the “Secure Email” in the top left corner, it will say “Revoked,” once the email is successfully revoked.
  • If you want to reauthorize access to email, you can easily do that by clicking on the “Re-Authorize” option.

How to Unsend an Email

While the article delves deep into the intricacies of deleting and recalling emails, there might be instances where you wish to completely unsend an email. Unsending an email means that the recipient will not have access to the email content, as if it was never sent in the first place. This feature can be a lifesaver in situations where you’ve sent sensitive information to the wrong person or made a regrettable error in your message.

For a detailed guide on how to unsend an email using various platforms, including Canary Mail, check out our comprehensive article on How to Unsend Email. This guide will walk you through the steps and provide insights into the effectiveness of the unsend feature across different email clients.

How to Mass Delete Emails on Gmail?

We receive a huge number of emails (primary, promotional, social, marketing, and spammy). Most of these emails are of no use to us and do nothing more than clutter our mailbox and take up space. So, you would want to get rid of such emails. Here is how to do that on Gmail with just a few clicks:

  1. Go to the Gmail inbox or the label from which you would like to delete the emails.
  2. Select all the emails in the label by checking the box in the top left corner.
  3. This will select only those emails that are displayed on the screen. If you have more emails, select the option that appears at the top, allowing you to select all emails in that folder.
  4. After selecting all the emails, click on the delete option (it looks like a trash can).
  5. A pop-up will appear on your screen, asking you to “Confirm bulk action.” Hit the “OK” button.

As mentioned previously, all these emails would go to the trash folder, where they stay for 30 days. If you want to free up space immediately or delete emails permanently right away, go to the trash folder and delete the emails permanently by following the steps discussed earlier.

How to Mass Delete Emails Using Canary Mail?

Canary Mail has made it very easy for its users to keep their mailbox organized. If you feel like you have too many unnecessary emails in your mailbox and want to bulk delete them, you can easily do that by using the “Bulk Cleaner” feature of the Canary Mail.

When you click on the Bulk Cleaner option at the top of the screen, multiple emails are selected, which you can review (unselect email(s) that you do not want to delete yet) and then delete all the selected items by clicking on the “three-dot icon” and then clicking on the “delete” option.

Understanding the Email Sending Process

Before diving into the methods of deleting sent emails, it’s essential to understand how the email sending process works. Once you hit the ‘send’ button, the email goes through several stages, from leaving your outbox to landing in the recipient’s inbox. Knowing this process can help you understand why deleting a sent email isn’t always straightforward.

Factors That Affect Email Deletion

  • Email Service Provider (ESP): Different ESPs have varied features. While some allow a short window to ‘undo’ a sent email, others might not have this feature.
  • Recipient’s ESP: Even if your ESP allows you to recall an email, the recipient’s ESP might not support this feature, making the recall unsuccessful.
  • Time: The time elapsed after sending the email can be a crucial factor. Some ESPs allow recalling only within a few seconds to minutes after sending.

Alternative Solutions to Deleting Sent Emails

  • Apology and Correction: If you’ve sent an incorrect or unintended email, a simple follow-up email apologizing and providing the correct information can suffice.
  • Setting Up Delayed Send: Some email platforms allow you to delay the sending of your email by a few seconds or minutes, giving you a window to stop it if needed.
  • Using Email Extensions: There are third-party extensions and plugins available that can enhance your email’s functionalities, including providing a more extended window to undo sent emails. If you’ve sent an incorrect or unintended email, a simple follow-up email apologizing and providing the correct information can suffice. Setting up delayed send features can also be beneficial. Additionally, using services like OneRep for email privacy can help protect your email from being exposed on various websites, ensuring better overall email security and privacy.

The Psychological Impact of Sending Unintended Emails

Mistakenly sending an email, especially in a professional setting, can be distressing. It’s essential to understand that everyone makes mistakes. Taking a moment to reflect, apologizing if necessary, and learning from the error is the way forward.

Future of Email Communication

As technology evolves, so does email communication. Future ESPs might come with advanced features, including better options to recall or modify sent emails. Staying updated with the latest in email technology can be beneficial.

Deleted Sent Emails: The Bottom Line

In summary, deleting an email from your “Sent” box only deletes the copy from your mailbox but does not affect the email copy that is sitting in the recipient’s “inbox.” Simply deleting emails from your inbox is quite easy, but you should know emails are not permanently deleted; instead, deleted emails stay in “Trash” or “Deleted items” for 30 days unless you delete them permanently from there.

As far as making an email disappear from the recipient’s mailbox is concerned, that can be done with the “Email Recall” or “undo Send” features of Outlook and Gmail, respectively, or with similar features offered by email clients.

 

Phoebe Brown
Phoebe Brown

As a British writer and productivity coach, I’m passionate about unraveling the intricacies of email, SaaS, and artificial intelligence. With a knack for making the complex simple, my work empowers individuals and teams to harness these tools for maximum impact.

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