Several iPhone and iPad report that the built-in iOS Mail app unread email indicator (red circle badge notification) shows some unread email messages when actually there are no unread email messages in their Inbox. We call these “ghost” messages. After trying a bunch of time to remove these, you might just feel like they are stuck forever!!! But fear not, we’ve got some tips to get those emails out of your unread box and into their proper place.
- Quick Tips
- Fixes for Ghost Messages (iOS Mail app shows unread emails)
- Delete & Reinstall the Mail App
- No Time? Check Out Our Video!
- Reader Tips
Follow these quick tips to fix when your iPhone unread email count is wrong
- Restart your device or force restart it
- Identify your unread email via the Mail app or using the email’s website and mark your unread email as read
- Or for Mac owners, open the Mail App and select the Mailbox Menu from the top menu bar. Choose Mark All Messages as Read
- If you use intelligent mailboxes, delete the intelligent mailbox that causes this problem and creates a new one with those same rules
- Toggle off and on Mail in your email account’s settings via the Settings app
- Hide the Mail app notifications (for persistent or reoccurring problems)
- Reset the Mail app by deleting the Mail App and reinstalling it
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Fixes for Ghost Messages (iOS Mail app shows unread emails)
Please try these steps until you resolve your issue
Find your unread email and mark it as read
First, verify you really don’t have any unread emails in your inbox. You may have some unread emails that you may not know.
For instance, let’s say you are using Gmail as your email account. Open Safari (or any other internet browser) and go to Gmail’s site. To find your unread Gmail messages, in the search box, enter ‘is: unread‘ (without the quotes.)
If this search finds any unread messages, mark them read. Check if this fixes your problem.
Or mark all your email as read
- Open the Mail app
- Choose All Inboxes
- Tap Edit
- Choose Select All
- Tap Mark
- Choose Mark as Read
Reset the email account within the Mail App
The next fix is to disable the Mail settings and restart the Mail app
- Go to Settings > Passwords & Accounts > Accounts
- Or Settings > Mail ( or Mail, Contacts, Calendars) > Accounts
- Select the mail account that shows the incorrect unread mail notifications
- If you have more than one, perform these steps for each account
- Toggle OFF “Mail” to disable it. This action does not delete your account
- Exit Settings by returning to your Home Screen
- Close the Mail app by swiping up your Gesture Bar or by pressing the Home button twice. Locate the Mail app preview and swipe up to close it
- Now once again go to Settings > Passwords & Accounts > Accounts
- For older iOS, go to Settings >Mail (Mail, Contacts, Calendars) and select the mail account
- Toggle ON Mail to enable it
- Check to see if your mail app is now showing the correct unread email counts.
If this didn’t stick, add in a restart after closing the Mail App.
Once powered up, return to Settings and toggle Mail back on. Or try a forced restart in between these steps.
Happens a lot? Hide the unread mail number
- Go to Settings > Notifications > Mail
- Toggle off Allow Notifications
We only recommend this step for persistent or reoccurring problems with the Mail app’s unread email count.
Delete & Reinstall the Mail App
If you use iOS 10 and above, Apple now allows users to delete certain native apps, including the Mail App! When you delete the Mail App, it also deletes all your local data but any documents or data stored via iCloud are not deleted.
First, Remove Mail
- On your iDevice, press and hold the Mail app lightly until it jiggles or until you see the Quick Action menu
- If it doesn’t jiggle, use less pressure
- Choose Delete from the Quick Actions or tap on the x, at the top left of the app, then tap Remove
- Press the Home button to finish or press Done
If you pair your device with an Apple Watch, removing the Mail app from your iPhone also removes the app from your Apple Watch.
Next, Restore Mail
- Open the App Store
- Tap the bottom tab for Search and type in Mail in the spotlight field
- Tap the cloud icon to reinstall Mail
- After reinstalling, go to Settings > Passwords & Accounts and toggle ON Mail for all listed accounts
- For folks using iOS 10 or below, you need to re-enter your account details. Go to Settings > Mail and add your accounts back in
If you have an Apple Watch, restoring Mail to your paired iPhone also restores that app on your Apple Watch.
Want Another Option to Delete Mail?
You can also delete and reinstall apps through the Settings App. Go to Settings > General > iPhone Storage (or iPad, iPod Touch Storage.)
Then scroll down the list to locate the Mail App, tap on it and select Delete App.
For folks using iOS 11 and above, do not select offload app as this preserves all the Mail App’s documents and data and the problem may return after reinstalling.
If time is an issue or you need to learn by watching, take a look at our video and follow along as we walk through the best tips to get your Mail app working normally again.
- If you have a Mac, open the Mail App and mark all your emails as read. This usually solves the problem
- Open your email via a web browser or its own app (not Apple’s Mail App), then type in label: unread in the search box. This search should show you any messages in your account that are flagged as unread–the mark them as read, read them, or delete them
- I just went into my online email account and searched ‘unread.’ It showed me all the unread mail that, for some reason, won’t pop up when I scroll through my mail on my iPhone. Marked them as read and I fixed my problem in an instance!
- Richo solved this by logging on to the web version of Gmail and marking the errant emails as read
- Here’s my fix: go to the email icon app, select the troubling email, click edit (top right corner), at the bottom click mark all, and mark as all read. Viola, it’s fixed!
- Look for an “all mail” folder. If it has any unread emails in it, clear and mark that mail as read. For me, once I did this my iPhone updated, and the problem is corrected!
- For the iPhone, ghost messages disappeared by disabling mail, then turning off, then back on and then re-enabling Mail.
- I marked ALL my messages as unread, waited a minute and then marked them all as read. This worked for me!
- I had to force reset my iPad (Home plus Power) rather than just powering it off, but then it worked.
- It’s much easier to just mark all your emails as “read.”
- I had to take an additional step and go into General>Restrictions>Allow Changes>Accounts and click “Allow Changes” before I could turn off the mail, but once I did that it worked well.
- I deleted my email account from the settings, signed in again, and it worked like a charm. My 35 unread emails are gone!
- Go to advanced settings within the individual email account and swipe off the SSL tab. Then exit. They should be gone. To turn back on go to Settings again and turn on your email following steps above.
- I went directly to my email server – in my case the AOL.com and logged on via Chrome and marked all the mail there as read. It seemed to fix the problem and immediately showed up on my phone correctly. None of the fixes above seemed to work, but this did for now.
Obsessed with tech since the early arrival of A/UX on Apple, Sudz (SK) is responsible for the editorial direction of AppleToolBox. He is based out of Los Angeles, CA.
Sudz specializes in covering all things macOS, having reviewed dozens of OS X and macOS developments over the years.
In a former life, Sudz worked helping Fortune 100 companies with their technology and business transformation aspirations.