What does cleaning mean on an iPhone app?

It can be extremely frustrating when you are trying to use an app, but you can’t. You’ve probably noticed from time to time an app that says ‘cleaning…’ underneath and you won’t be able to open it. But what does cleaning mean on an iPhone app?

In this article, we’re going to explain what cleaning means and how to avoid apps cleaning when you don’t want them to. 

What does cleaning mean on an iPhone app?

You’ve probably 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. 

It may seem like this happens at the most inopportune times, so why does it happen?

First, there’s nothing to worry about when your apps are cleaning. Certain apps will clean by themselves automatically. 

Apple is always coming up with new ways to make iOS backups more efficient. Cleaning 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.

How to stop apps cleaning?

If you’re finding 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 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. 

How long does it take for your app to finish 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. 


Apps cleaning themselves is a very common occurrence for iPhone users. It’s certainly nothing to worry about and you won’t lose any data from this happening. 

If you’re finding it a little annoying, there are ways that you can stop it from happening. Check out more iPhone troubleshooting articles in our blog.

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