Plenty of iPhone and iPad users have deleted contacts from their device, only to find they keep coming back a week or so later. This creates an endless loop with you forever deleting contacts that keep coming back again.
Don’t worry, it is possible to permanently delete contacts from your iPhone or iPad. We’ve shown you how to do it below.
- 1 Quick Tips
- 2 How to delete contacts from your iPhone or iPad
- 3 Why do deleted iPhone or iPad contacts keep coming back?
- 4 Step 1. Create a new backup and restart your device
- 5 Step 2. Check the accounts you sync contacts with
- 6 Step 3. Use a third-party app to delete contacts
- 7 Step 4. Restore your device to factory settings
- 8 You can always restore deleted contacts from iCloud
Try these quick tips if deleted contacts keep coming back:
- Make a backup and restart your device after deleting a contact.
- If you sync contacts over email, delete them from that account directly.
- Use iMyFone or other third-party apps to permanently delete contacts.
- Manage your child’s contact list with Screen Time on iPhone and iPad
- Two workarounds to delete multiple Apple contacts at once
- iOS: Lost contacts on iPhone fixes
How to delete contacts from your iPhone or iPad
We’re sure most you know how to do this already, so feel free to skip this section. But just in case, here is how Apple recommends you delete contacts from your iPhone or iPad.
If you follow these steps, contacts “shouldn’t” come back again afterward.
Use either of the two methods below.
How to delete contacts from the Contacts app:
- Open the Contacts app on your iPhone or iPad.
- Find and open the contact you want to delete.
- In the top-right corner, tap Edit.
- Scroll to the bottom and tap Delete Contact.
- Confirm you want to Delete Contact.
How to delete contacts from the iCloud website:
- Go to www.icloud.com and sign in with your Apple ID account.
- Click Contacts.
- Find and select the contact you want to delete.
- At the top of the screen, click Edit, then click Delete Contact at the bottom.
- Confirm you want to Delete the contact.
Why do deleted iPhone or iPad contacts keep coming back?
There are a few reasons deleted contacts might keep coming back on your iPhone or iPad. Usually, it’s a syncing problem.
When you sync your contacts to iCloud, Gmail, Yahoo, or other cloud services it means there are several copies of your contacts list. One lives on your iPhone or iPad and another lives on the cloud service you sync with.
If these two copies fall out of step with one another, it can cause your device to keep replacing deleted contacts with the copy it finds online.
It’s also possible your deleted contacts still show up because there was a duplicate copy of them. Duplicates are usually the result of syncing problems as well.
Either way, you can permanently delete contacts from your iPhone or iPad using the troubleshooting steps below. Let us know which one works for you in the comments!
Step 1. Create a new backup and restart your device
Creating a backup of your iPhone or iPad also syncs your contacts with iCloud. When you back up your iPhone or iPad after deleting contacts, it updates iCloud to delete those contact as well, stopping them from coming back.
Be sure to delete your contacts before making a new backup.
To make a new backup, go to Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud. Scroll down and tap the iCloud Backup item then choose to Back Up Now.
Also, try restarting your device after deleting a contact. Some users suggest this reinforces the deletion and stops your device replacing the contact again.
To restart your iPhone or iPad, press and hold the Sleep/Wake button with either Volume button. When prompted, slide to power off, then wait 30 seconds before pressing the Sleep/Wake button to restart your device.
Step 2. Check the accounts you sync contacts with
If you sync contacts with an email account, you might need to delete the contact directly from that account to stop it coming back on your iPhone or iPad again.
You can find out which accounts you sync contacts with from the Settings app on your device. Go to Passwords & Accounts and select each of your email accounts to see if Contacts is turned on.
If it is, log on to the website for that email address (e.g. mail.gmail.com or mail.yahoo.com) and sign in to your account. Find and delete the same contacts from your email account, then also delete them on your iPhone or iPad.
Alternatively, turn off Contacts from the Passwords & Accounts page on your device. This stops it from syncing contacts with your email account.
You can also stop contacts syncing with iCloud on your iPhone or iPad. Go to Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud and turn off Contacts from the list.
Step 3. Use a third-party app to delete contacts
If none of the steps above seem to help, you could try using a third-party app designed to delete data from Apple devices. Many of them offer free trials to get you started.
One example of these apps is iMyFone, which you can use to make contacts “100% unrecoverable.” Although you should take care to independently research apps before using any of them with your devices.
We haven’t tested or reviewed iMyFone, be sure to conduct your own research. Don’t install or use any untrustworthy or poorly-reviewed apps.
Step 4. Restore your device to factory settings
If you don’t want to use a third-party app, or if you can’t find any to help, you might be able to permanently delete your contacts by erasing your device.
Before you do this, delete the contacts you want to get rid of and make a new backup of your device using iCloud, iTunes, or Finder in macOS Catalina. After you erase your device, use that backup to recover your content.
Hopefully, deleted contacts won’t come back on your iPhone or iPad after this.
After backing up your device, go to Settings > General > Reset and tap Erase All Content and Settings to erase and reformat it. Follow the onscreen setup to recover your backup afterward.
You can always restore deleted contacts from iCloud
If you delete the wrong contacts by mistake, you can restore them using the iCloud website. Contacts remain available to restore for 30 days after you delete them.
Click here to find out how to restore anything from iCloud; let us know if you have any questions in the comments!
Dan is a freelance writer based in South West England.
He spent two years supervising repairs as a Genius Admin for Apple Retail and uses that knowledge to keep our troubleshooting guides up to date.
Long before that, Dan turned to Apple products from a musical background. Having owned iPods for years, he bought a MacBook to learn sound recording and production. It was using those skills that he gained a first-class Bachelor of Science in Sound Technology.