This question is related to Should I be concerned about excess, non-running, Docker containers?.

I'm wondering how to remove old containers. The docker rm 3e552code34a lets you remove a single one, but I have lots already. docker rm --help doesn't give a selection option (like all, or by image name).

Maybe there is a directory in which these containers are stored where I can delete them easily manually?

  • 16
    You should also consider cleaning orphaned docker volumes. I often find that they consume much more space than old containers and old images. Good script for removing orphaned docker volumes is available at: – Nemanja Trifunovic Dec 1 '15 at 18:06
  • Maybe can help you. – user1929959 Sep 13 '16 at 19:34
  • You can also use docker runwith the --rm flag which would make the container ephemeral, removing all container files after the run. – Gordon Sep 21 '16 at 5:51
  • I agree with @NemanjaTrifunovic . Pay attention. Keep this in your toolbok: docker volume ls -f dangling=true – bitfox Sep 21 '16 at 17:51
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    With docker 1.13 (Q4 2016), you can also consider the new docker system prune command. See my answer below. – VonC Oct 4 '16 at 19:52

50 Answers 50

up vote 988 down vote accepted

There is a new feature in Docker 1.13.x called Docker container prune: docker container prune This will do what you want and should work on all platforms the same way.

There is also a Docker system prune, which will clean up containers, images, volumes, and networks all in one command.

Original Answer:

There has been some talk about a Docker cleanup command. You can find the information on this ticket:

Until that command is available, you can string Docker commands together with other Unix commands to get what you need. Here is an example on how to clean up old containers that are weeks old:

$ docker ps --filter "status=exited" | grep 'weeks ago' | awk '{print $1}' | xargs --no-run-if-empty docker rm

To give credit, where it is due, this example is from

  • 81
    Similar command to remove all untagged images: docker images | grep "<none>" | awk '{print $3}' | xargs docker rmi – Mohan Raj Sep 20 '13 at 21:29
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    @MichelMüller when building an image from a dockerfile you can specify the -rm option to remove intermediate containers after a successful build. – Freek Kalter Nov 13 '13 at 20:30
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    @MichelMüller the images are what are used for caching, so removing the containers won't effect that. – Ken Cochrane Nov 13 '13 at 21:34
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    If you want to use awk for this consider this command if you want do rm all stopped containers (without a error because of the first line): docker ps -a | awk 'NR > 1 {print $1}' | xargs docker rm – masi Jun 15 '14 at 14:45
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    If you get permission denied errors, add sudo before docker on the last command: $ sudo docker ps -a | grep 'weeks ago' | awk '{print $1}' | xargs --no-run-if-empty sudo docker rm -f – Luciano Bargmann Nov 12 '14 at 17:33

Another method, which I got from Guillaume J. Charmes (credit where it is due):

docker rm `docker ps --no-trunc -aq`

will remove all containers in an elegant way.

And by Bartosz Bilicki, for Windows:

FOR /f "tokens=*" %i IN ('docker ps -a -q') DO docker rm %i

For PowerShell:

docker rm @(docker ps -aq)

An update with Docker 1.13 (Q4 2016), credit to VonC (later in this thread):

docker system prune will delete ALL unused data (i.e., in order: containers stopped, volumes without containers and images with no containers).

See PR 26108 and commit 86de7c0, which are introducing a few new commands to help facilitate visualizing how much space the Docker daemon data is taking on disk and allowing for easily cleaning up "unneeded" excess.

docker system prune

WARNING! This will remove:
    - all stopped containers
    - all volumes not used by at least one container
    - all images without at least one container associated to them
Are you sure you want to continue? [y/N] y
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    this somehow doesnt work for me, but docker ps -a -q | xargs docker rm works, (sudo may be needed) – FUD Jan 9 '14 at 9:29
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    what about docker rm $(docker ps -a -q) ? – qkrijger Jan 9 '14 at 20:48
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    @qkrijger, this doesn't change anything from your original answer, except for adding bashism. The problem is with command line overflow. xargs variant deals with it in a nice way. I would also add --no-trunk to docker ps to avoid (unlikely) id clashes. – Ihor Kaharlichenko Feb 7 '14 at 22:32
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    be aware if you use data-only container, it will remove them also – nXqd Mar 26 '14 at 12:08
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    I don't see the point with --no-trunc since docker rm doesn't need full IDs anyway. – Pithikos Aug 8 '14 at 9:44

Updated Answer Use docker system prune or docker container prune now. See VonC's updated answer:

Previous Answer Composing several different hints above, the most elegant way to remove all non-running containers seems to be:

docker rm $(docker ps -q -f status=exited)

  • -q prints just the container ids (without column headers)
  • -f allows you to filter your list of printed containers (in this case we are filtering to only show exited containers)
  • 6
    This should be the correct answer because it relies on docker to tell you which containers are no longer used, rather than assuming the text output format of $(docker images) will not change. Bonus points for spawning only one extra process instead of two. – eurythmia Aug 26 '15 at 11:43
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    You might want to add -v to avoid dangling volumes: docker rm -v $(docker ps -q -f status=exited). See… for details about dangling volumes. – rluba Oct 16 '15 at 13:19
  • @rluba apparently in Docker 1.9 there will be a separate volume api for handling that problem. – Ryan Walls Oct 16 '15 at 16:47
  • an alias might be handy: alias docker-gc="docker rm -v \$(docker ps -q -f status=exited)" – Frank Neblung Jul 15 '16 at 9:36
  • This also works under Windows with PowerShell. – Tobias Dec 20 '16 at 14:21

The official way is:

docker rm `docker ps -aq`

The Docker maintainers have indicated there will be no command for this - and you compose the commands like that:

We have discussed this before and prefer users to use the above line without having to add additional code to Docker.

  • 5
    This is a bad solution though, because it'll also delete storage containers. – Sobrique Jan 10 '16 at 16:39
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    What do you mean "storage containers"? If you mean data-only containers which once upon a time were used to keep references to data volumes, those are no longer necessary because of the availability of docker volume subcommand, and named volumes. – L0j1k Apr 1 '16 at 23:52
  • Note that this won't work inside Windows Powershell. For that, this is a better solution: – Bram Vanroy Jan 30 at 9:53
  • @Sobrique If you don't react, at least you should delete your comment, it is nearly complete and harmful nonsense. – peterh Feb 25 at 16:22

It is now possible to use filtering with docker ps:

docker rm $(docker ps -q -f status=exited)

And for images:

docker rmi $(docker images -q -f "dangling=true")

However, any of those will cause docker rm or docker rmi to throw an error when there are no matching containers. The older docker rm $(docker ps -aq) trick was even worse as it tried to remove any running container, failing at each one.

Here's a cleaner script to add in your ~/.bashrc or ~/.profile :

# Use `docker-cleanup --dry-run` to see what would be deleted.

function docker-cleanup {
  EXITED=$(docker ps -q -f status=exited)
  DANGLING=$(docker images -q -f "dangling=true")

  if [ "$1" == "--dry-run" ]; then
    echo "==> Would stop containers:"
    echo $EXITED
    echo "==> And images:"
    echo $DANGLING
    if [ -n "$EXITED" ]; then
      docker rm $EXITED
      echo "No containers to remove."
    if [ -n "$DANGLING" ]; then
      docker rmi $DANGLING
      echo "No images to remove."

Edit: As noted below, original answer was for removing images, not containers. Updated to answer both, including new links to documentation. Thanks to Adrian (and Ryan's answer) for mentioning the new ps filtering.

  • 2
    Note the real avantage of this - you don't accidentally kill off storage conatiners. – Sobrique Jan 10 '16 at 16:41
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    You can also use status=created to get ones that are not running and have never run. – enderland Feb 17 '16 at 15:41

With Docker 1.13 (Q4 2016), you now have:

docker system prune will delete ALL unused data (i.e., in order: containers stopped, volumes without containers and images with no containers).

See PR 26108 and commit 86de7c0, which are introducing a few new commands to help facilitate visualizing how much space the Docker daemon data is taking on disk and allowing for easily cleaning up "unneeded" excess.

docker system prune 

WARNING! This will remove:
    - all stopped containers
    - all volumes not used by at least one container
    - all images without at least one container associated to them
Are you sure you want to continue? [y/N] y

As wjv comments,

There is also docker {container,image,volume,network} prune, which may be used to remove unused instances of just one type of object.

Introduced in commit 913e5cb, only for Docker 1.13+.

docker container prune
  • Thanks for sharing - for this to become visible, I'm quoting you in the answer high up in the thread – qkrijger Oct 6 '16 at 18:43
  • I upvoted you already :) – qkrijger Oct 7 '16 at 11:56
  • As usual, add the -f flag to force the cleanup with no questions asked. – Dirk Feb 3 '17 at 11:21
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    should be marked as the nowdays correct answer, most of the above were right back in time, but are nodays overcomplicated – Eugen Mayer Jun 25 '17 at 10:59
  • Agreed, so much easier lately, up up you go! – Maxim Geerinck Jul 14 '17 at 6:44


docker container prune

This - 2017 (OLD) way


docker rm $(docker ps -a -q)


docker rm  -f $(docker ps -a -q)
  • worked for me on OS X – cljk Jan 30 '17 at 19:03
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    downvoted, since this is for sure not the way you do that in 2017 - whis would be docker volume/container/image prune, see – Eugen Mayer Jun 25 '17 at 11:00
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    upvoted to counter the downvote because a) this answer was from 2016, and b) plenty of folks dont run the bleeding edge. – keen Oct 2 '17 at 20:58

Remove all stopped containers:

docker rm $(docker ps -a | grep Exited | awk '{print $1}')

From the comment by pauk960:

Since version 1.3.0 you can use filters with docker ps, instead of grep Exited use docker ps -a -f status=exited. And if you use -q with it you can get container IDs only instead of full output, no need to use awk for that.

If you do not like to remove all containers, you can select all containers created before or after a specific container with docker ps --before <container-ID> or with docker ps --since <container-ID>. This feature is at least in docker version 0.6.5.

Let's say You have developed your system, now it is working but there are a number of containers left. You want to remove containers created before that working version. Determine the ID of the working container with docker ps.

Remove containers created before an other container

docker rm $(docker ps --before 9c49c11c8d21 -q)

Another example. You have your database already running on a docker container. You have developed your application to run on an other container and now You have a number of unneeded containers.

Remove containers created after a certain container

docker rm $(docker ps --since a6ca4661ec7f -q)

Docker stores containers in /var/lib/docker/containers in Ubuntu. I think extra containers do no other harm, but take up disk space.

Update: As of Docker version 1.13 (released January 2017), you can issue the following command to clean up stopped containers, unused volumes, dangling images and unused networks:

docker system prune

If you want to insure that you're only deleting containers which have an exited status, use this:

docker ps -aq -f status=exited | xargs docker rm

Similarly, if you're cleaning up docker stuff, you can get rid of untagged, unnamed images in this way:

docker images -q --no-trunc -f dangling=true | xargs docker rmi

Here is my docker-cleanup script, which removes untagged containers and images. Please check the source for any updates.

# Cleanup docker files: untagged containers and images.
# Use `docker-cleanup -n` for a dry run to see what would be deleted.

untagged_containers() {
  # Print containers using untagged images: $1 is used with awk's print: 0=line, 1=column 1.
  docker ps -a | awk '$2 ~ "[0-9a-f]{12}" {print $'$1'}'

untagged_images() {
  # Print untagged images: $1 is used with awk's print: 0=line, 3=column 3.
  # NOTE: intermediate images (via -a) seem to only cause
  # "Error: Conflict, foobarid wasn't deleted" messages.
  # Might be useful sometimes when Docker messed things up?!
  # docker images -a | awk '$1 == "<none>" {print $'$1'}'
  docker images | tail -n +2 | awk '$1 == "<none>" {print $'$1'}'

# Dry-run.
if [ "$1" = "-n" ]; then
  echo "=== Containers with uncommitted images: ==="
  untagged_containers 0

  echo "=== Uncommitted images: ==="
  untagged_images 0


# Remove containers with untagged images.
echo "Removing containers:" >&2
untagged_containers 1 | xargs --no-run-if-empty docker rm --volumes=true

# Remove untagged images
echo "Removing images:" >&2
untagged_images 3 | xargs --no-run-if-empty docker rmi


First, stop running containers before attempting to remove them

Remove Running containers

docker rm $(docker stop -t=1 $(docker ps -q))

You could use kill instead of stop. In my case I prefer stop since I tend to rerun them vs creating a new one every time so I try to shut them down nicely.

Note: Trying to stop a container will give you an error:

Error: Impossible to remove a running container, please stop it first

Remove All containers

docker rm $(docker ps -a -q)

Removing all containers from Windows shell:

FOR /f "tokens=*" %i IN ('docker ps -a -q') DO docker rm %i
  • I'll include this in my answer since that is first page. Thanks – qkrijger Apr 17 '16 at 10:58

Docker cleanup

A tiny all-in-one shell, which removes:

  • Containers that not running more than one day ago
  • Images that don't belong to any remaining container

Intend to run as a crontab job


  • It will remove all <none>:<none> images
  • If the image has multiple repo:tag references to it, it will remove all repo:tag except with running a container. Actually it is a nature of "docker rmi".
  • Many error message will be show on screen, and you can decide to 2>/dev/null or not
  • Learn something from docker-gc, and fix its problem (it can not remove image that has mutliple repo:tag)


docker rm -f $(docker ps -a -q)

It forcefully stops and removes all containers present locally.

  • Please edit with more information. Code-only and "try this" answers are discouraged, because they contain no searchable content, and don't explain why someone should "try this". We make an effort here to be a resource for knowledge. – Brian Tompsett - 汤莱恩 Sep 7 '16 at 14:25
  • In ubuntu 16.04, docker requires sudo, so you have to write sudo docker rm -f $(sudo docker ps -a -q). – Elliott Sep 21 '16 at 15:47
  • as a plus, this also works in Windows under powershell! – Robert Ivanc Oct 21 '16 at 14:34
  • @Elliott I think sudo is required everywhere unless you add your user to the 'docker' group. I use ubuntu 16.10 without sudo by adding my user to the docker group. – emory Mar 26 '17 at 11:38

So, personally I recommend doing this as part of your deploy script for both images and containers keeping only the most recent n containers and images. I tag my docker images with the same versioning schema I use with git tag as well as always tagging the latest docker image with "latest." This means that without cleaning up anything, my docker images wind up looking like:

REPOSITORY                       TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             VIRTUAL SIZE
some_repo/some_image             0.0.5              8f1a7c7ba93c        23 hours ago        925.4 MB
some_repo/some_image             latest             8f1a7c7ba93c        23 hours ago        925.4 MB
some_repo/some_image             0.0.4              0beabfa514ea        45 hours ago        925.4 MB
some_repo/some_image             0.0.3              54302cd10bf2        6 days ago          978.5 MB
some_repo/some_image             0.0.2              0078b30f3d9a        7 days ago          978.5 MB
some_repo/some_image             0.0.1              sdfgdf0f3d9a        8 days ago          938.5 MB

Now, of course I don't want to keep all my images (or containers) going back to perpetuity on all my production boxes. I just want the last 3 or 4 for rollbacks and to get rid of everything else. Unix's tail is your best friend here. Since docker images and docker ps both order by date, we can just use tail to select all but the top 3 and remove them:

docker rmi $(docker images -q | tail -n +4)

Run that along with your deploy scripts (or locally) to always keep just enough images to comfortably roll back without taking up too much room or cluttering stuff up with old images.

Personally, I only keep one container on my production box at any time, but you can do the same sort of thing with containers if you want more:

docker rm $(docker ps -aq | tail -n +4)

Finally, in my simplified example we're only dealing with one repo at a time, but if you had more, you can just get a bit more sophisticated with the same idea. Say I just want to keep the last 3 images from some_repo/some_image. I can just mix in grep and awk and be on my way:

docker rmi $(docker images -a | grep 'some_repo/some_image' | awk '{print $3}' | tail -n +4)

Again, same idea applies to containers, but you get it by this point so I'll stop giving examples.

Remove all stopped containers.

sudo docker rm $(sudo docker ps -a -q)

This will remove all stopped containers by getting a list of all containers with docker ps -a -q and passing their ids to docker rm. This should not remove any running containers, and it will tell you it can’t remove a running image.

Remove all untagged images

Now you want to clean up old images to save some space.

sudo docker rmi $(sudo docker images -q --filter "dangling=true")

  • Don't forget to delete docker volumes by specifying the -v option (sudo docker rm -v $(sudo docker ps -a -q)) – vcarel Nov 9 '15 at 10:30

Remove 5 oldest containers:

docker rm `docker ps -aq | tail -n 5`

See how many containers there are left:

docker ps -aq | wc -l

New way: spotify/docker-gc play the trick.

 docker run --rm -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock -v /etc:/etc spotify/docker-gc
  • Containers that exited more than an hour ago are removed.
  • Images that don't belong to any remaining container after that are removed

It has supported environmental settings

Forcing deletion of images that have multiple tags


Forcing deletion of containers


Excluding Recently Exited Containers and Images From Garbage Collection


This setting also prevents the removal of images that have been created less than GRACE_PERIOD_SECONDS seconds ago.

Dry run


Cleaning up orphaned container volumes CLEAN_UP_VOLUMES=1

Reference: docker-gc

Old way to do:

delete old, non-running containers

 docker ps -a -q -f status=exited | xargs --no-run-if-empty docker rm
 docker rm $(docker ps -a -q)

delete all images associated with non-running docker containers

 docker images -q | xargs --no-run-if-empty docker rmi

cleanup orphaned docker volumes for docker version 1.10.x and above

 docker volume ls -qf dangling=true | xargs -r docker volume rm

Based on time period

 docker ps -a | grep "weeks ago" | awk "{print $1}" | xargs --no-run-if-empty docker rm
 docker ps -a | grep "days ago" | awk "{print $1}" | xargs --no-run-if-empty docker rm
 docker ps -a | grep "hours ago" | awk "{print $1}" | xargs --no-run-if-empty docker rm
  • 1
    Interesting alternative. +1 – VonC Nov 20 '16 at 12:26

You can use the following command to remove the exited containers:

docker rm $(sudo docker ps -a | grep Exit | cut -d ' ' -f 1)

Here is the full gist to also remove the old images on docker: Gist to remove old Docker containers and images.

# docker-gc --- Remove stopped docker containers

RUNNING=$(docker ps -q)
ALL=$(docker ps -a -q)

for container in $ALL ; do
    [[ "$RUNNING" =~ "$container" ]] && continue
    echo Removing container: $(docker rm $container)

I always use docker rmi $(docker ps -a -q) to remove all images.

You can remove directory /var/lib/docker/graph when docker rmi failed.

  • That comment was already posted. – qkrijger Jan 6 '14 at 16:06
  • Thanks for adding the /var/lib/docker/graph info – Jonathan DeMarks Mar 5 '15 at 15:26
  • The questions was how to remove containers, not images. – pauk960 Mar 16 '15 at 19:34
  1. Remove all docker processes:

    docker rm $(docker ps -a -q)
  2. Remove specific container:

    $ docker ps -a (lists all old containers)
    $ docker rm container-Id

You can remove only stopped containers. Stop all of them in the beginning

docker stop $(docker ps -a -q)

Then you can remove

docker rm $(docker ps -a -q)

To remove ALL containers without crying:

sudo docker ps -a | grep -v CONTAINER | awk '{print $1}' | xargs --no-run-if-empty sudo docker rm -f

For anyone interested, I took the example from qkrijger and turned it into a clear all (stop and remove all)

docker stop `docker ps --no-trunc -aq` ; docker rm `docker ps --no-trunc -aq`
  • If you are removing the containers anyway, then docker rm -f $(docker ps --no-trunc -aq) is faster – qkrijger Apr 10 '15 at 7:50
  • True, but if you need it to go through proper shutdown to cleanup shared or reused resources (i.e. Attached volumes, correctly closed active connections, etc) then you need to call stop first. Great example, if you have a Jenkins container, then killing the container is a bad idea. You want it to save any unpersisted changes, warn logged in users, and, very importantly, properly stop all builds. – Kraig McConaghy Apr 10 '15 at 12:57
  • agreed, that is a very valid use case – qkrijger Apr 26 '15 at 22:55
docker rm --force `docker ps -qa`

Remove all containers created from a certain image:

docker rm  $(docker ps -a | awk '/myimage:mytag/{print $1}')
  • Nice, I like it :D – qkrijger May 20 '14 at 8:37

On Ubuntu 14.04 (Trusty Tahr):

$ for CON in `docker ps -qa`; do docker rm $CON ; done

This is just a normal Bash command so it should work with EVERY Bash-compliant terminal.

if you want to automatically/periodically clean up exited containers and remove images and volumes that aren't in use by a running container you can download this image meltwater/docker-cleanup.

I use this on production since we deploy several times a day on multiple servers, and i don't want to go to every server to clean up ( that would be a pain).

Just run:

docker run -d -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock:rw  -v /var/lib/docker:/var/lib/docker:rw --restart=unless-stopped meltwater/docker-cleanup:latest

It will run every 30mins by default (or however long you set it using DELAY_TIME=1800 option) and clean up exited containers and images.

More details:

protected by Baum mit Augen Aug 25 '17 at 20:22

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