What does cleaning mean on an iPhone app? – Answer

When you use an app on your iPhone, over time it will increase the number of stored cache files that it has on your device.

These are the apps temp files, but they can help it to load faster, as it’ll remember the previous data that you’ve entered. However, not all data is necessary, which is where cleaning comes in.

What does it mean when an app says cleaning on iPhone?

When your apps say that they’re “cleaning themselves”, this means that they’re deleting some of their cached data to ensure that none of it is corrupted. If it is, this can cause issues when loading up the app on your phone.

On modern iPhones, this is really nothing you need to worry about, as the more modern updates of iOS and devices ensure that they do this automatically. So, you won’t need to worry about the cleaning message with if you download an iOS app on new iPhones.

However, if you’ve ever used an older model of iPhone, you may have gone to use an app on your iPhone before but haven’t been able to open it because it is greyed out and it says ‘cleaning…’ underneath. 

The cleaning process

First, there’s nothing to worry about when your apps are cleaning. The cleaning process is normal, and you’ll find it on any old iPhone, iPad or iPod.

Certain apps will clean by themselves automatically. Apple is always coming up with new ways to make iOS backups more efficient.

For a period, this was via cleaning, which means that the operating system is going through and clearing out caches and temporary files associated with the app.

Temporary files are stored with every app, and they’re pretty useless. So your phone will delete these for storage space.

App developers will have to specify which files are important and necessary for the app’s functionality, so your iPhone will never delete any of these files. 

When an app greys out and says ‘cleaning…’ on your iOS device, this means that the app’s cache (temporary files) is being deleted from the app’s directory in order to free up storage space.

Once the app stops saying cleaning, the app will start to function properly once you open it. None of your data will be lost after cleaning.

The time it takes for an app to clean really depends on the size of the app and how many files need to be deleted. This can take anywhere from seconds to minutes or even hours if there is a lot to clear. 

How to stop apps cleaning themselves?

If you’re using an older iPhone and find that your apps are cleaning too often and it’s interfering with you being able to use your phone, you can do things to reduce how often it happens.

Cleaning is more common on iPhones with lower storage space. So keeping space available on your phone will reduce how often your apps have to clean. 

Your device will automatically start looking for ways to free up space when it detects that there is little space available. You can take steps to free up some space on your iPhone by doing the following:

Offload apps

Offloading your apps is a good practice to get into. You can do this easily and it will stop your apps cleaning so often. 

Offloading apps is specific to Apple and it is the process of deleting an app’s programme data but keeping important files or settings associated with the app.

Once an app is offloaded, you can re-download it and it will work the same as before.

To offload an app, complete the following steps:

  • Go to Settings.
  • Tap General.
  • Tap iPhone Storage.
  • Scroll down to the apps (the ones taking up the most space will be at the top).
  • Tap on an app.
  • Tap ‘Offload app’ and let it run for a few seconds.
  • Tap ‘Reinstall app’.

After reinstalling, you’ll be able to use the app as normal again and none of your data will be lost.

Delete Photos

Another way you can clear up storage space on your iPhone is by deleting photos.

Being part of group chats or being too snap-happy can see your phone’s photo album storing hundreds of photos that you don’t need.

The first thing you need to do before deleting any photos from your device is to make sure that all the photos you want to keep are stored on your iCloud. 

To delete photos from your iPhone, do the following:

  • Go to Photos.
  • Tap Select at the top right-hand corner.
  • Select all the photos you want to delete.
  • Hit the Trash Can at the bottom right-hand corner.
  • Tap ‘Delete [number] photos’ .

Doing this will move your photos to the recently deleted folder in Photos. This means that you can choose to recover any deleted photos.

If you decide you want to permanently delete your photos, then you can also do that here. You just navigate to ‘Recently deleted’, located in the Albums tab.

Then, Select the photos that you wish to permanently delete. After clearing your device, you should find that your iPhone runs faster than before and leave you with more available device storage space.


Apps cleaning themselves is a very common occurrence for long term iPhone users that have been using iOS for a while, and they free up more available storage space so you can download another iOS app.

It’s certainly nothing to worry about and you won’t lose any data from this happening. If you’ve updated and moved to a more modern model of iPhone, then this is no longer an issue with iOS apps.

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By day he's an engineer and by night (well, evening or very early morning but night sounds way cooler) Alex runs the Apps UK ship. He has a keen interest in language, fitness & especially social media - he is always on the lookout for the next hot platform.

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