How to clean up your Android device: cache, history, files and more

Even more stressful than a sluggish phone is an ‘insufficient storage’ message in the Play Store when you’re trying to download a new App. If you’re reading this article, it’s because you’ve probably run into a lack of storage on your phone or your device is performing worse than you’d expected. If you’re looking for an app to clean your smartphone, I’m warning you, the vast majority don’t deliver on their promise and, many times, the solution is in the Android system itself.

  • How to safely clean your Android device
  • How to delete data from Android apps and PC

Before going on, I need to inform you that this article was written in collaboration with AndroidPIT readers and other members of the content team. So, the solutions found in this list are based on the number of times they were mentioned in user responses on the site’s social media. It does not reflect the opinion of the editorial team.

Jump to:

  • Find a problem using DiskUsage
  • Manually clean an app’s cache
  • Factory reset your phone
  • Use SD Maid
  • Use CCleaner
  • Conclusion

Find a problem using DiskUsage

DiskUsage is unique for each individual, a personal statement. The first thing you need when you’re cleaning your smartphone is to find out which type of data or feature is taking up the most space. Using DiskUsage, you can take a look at all of the memory usage information on your smartphone or tablet. Therefore, it’s easier to see exactly which folders and files are using up the most memory on your device.

diskusage app
DiskUsage will help you identify which files are using up the most space on your phone. / © AndroidPIT

After scanning, you can see the size of each app, including their cache, and even how many voice files you’ve saved. DiskUsage will graphically show you which of your files are the biggest, and then it’ll let you choose which ones you’d like to delete.

Install on Google Play

Manually clean an app’s cache

The majority of our site’s readers and editors manually clean their apps’ caches as well as frequently deleting images and videos that they receive through WhatsApp.

  • Clear app cache or clear app data: what’s the difference?

By doing so, you can get to know your device and its features better. You can even take preventative measures, like blocking those avalanches of automatically downloaded pictures on messaging apps. Furthermore, by doing this manually, you can be certain that you won’t cause any long term damage to your device.

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Many cleaning tools promise to improve the memory and performance of your device. This does happen, but it’s mostly due to cleaning out your apps’ caches. A cache is basically a storage area where data or frequently used processes are saved for quicker access in the future. In the end, the cache actually saves time and avoids unnecessary use of the hardware on your phone. So, always cleaning your app when your phone is running slowly or the memory is full could seem like the best option in the short run, but it could have consequences in the long term.

I recommend doing preventative cache cleanings on occasion, and when you do it, do it from the list of Apps with the most data. In order to do this:

  • Go to the Settings Menu;
  • Click on Apps;
  • Find the All tab;
  • Choose an app that is taking up a lot of space;
  • Click the button Clear Cache. If you’re running Android 6.0 Marshmallow on your device then you’ll need to click on Storage and then Clear Cache.
androidpit clear cache
Clear each app’s cache separately / © AndroidPIT

However, this only works to clean one app. In order to clean the cache of every app at the same time, follow the steps below:

  • Go to Settings;
  • Click on Storage > Cache Data or Saved Data;
  • A screen will ask for confirmation to remove everything stored within the caches. Confirm and save to remove the content.

Factory reset your phone

Just like the name says, restoring your phone to factory settings takes you back to zero and resets your device’s settings to exactly how they were the day it came out of the box. There won’t be any extra apps, contacts, settings or any type of data, only what comes standard on Android.

However, if you have updated your system to a more recent version, the system will keep the most recent upgrade. So, if you were running Lollipop and updated to Marshmallow, after the reset, your phone will continue running Android Marshmallow.

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This feature is mostly used by people that like to install different ROMs on their device but it could also be very helpful to users who have an older phone. Doing this will give your device a breath of life. I especially recommend it if you’ve had your device for more than a year and you’ve never formatted it. Additionally, it’s important to backup your data before resetting your phone.

In order to restore your phone to factory settings, the most common way is:

  • Go to Settings;
  • Click on Backup and Reset;
  • Make a backup in the Android system itself by using Drive;
  • Factory Data Reset;
  • Reset phone;
  • You may have to put your PIN in again;
  • Click on Reset phone or Erase Everything;
  • Restart.
ANDROIDPIT factory reset moto x play
Restoring your phone to factory settings will delete all of your data / © AndroidPIT


SD Maid – System Cleaning Tool

SD Maid was one of the apps that was most mentioned by both users and members of our team alike. It works like an internal tool box that lets you find files or app directories that are no longer installed on your smartphone; search for known file types and locations which can normally be securely deleted and, among other things, remove duplicate files.

The app has a well designed and intuitive interface which works just as well for users with or without root access. If you have administrative access to your device, you can remove even more fat to free up space in your memory.

  • We spoke to the SD Maid dev about the benefits of system cleaning tools
sd maid app
SD Maid delivers on its promise but it offers more options to users who have root access. / © AndroidPIT

The app does have a PRO version, which costs $3.49. I recommend the PRO version to only those users who have rooted their phone, since the majority of the features need root access. A while back we talked with the App developer and sincerely, SD Maid is very honest in their advertising. They don’t make promises they can’t deliver on.

So, if you think manually cleaning your phone is a bit too much work, then according to both users and the AndroidPIT team, SD Maid is a solid option.

SD Maid – System Cleaning Tool
Install on Google Play

SD Maid Pro – Unlocker
Install on Google Play

CCleaner – Puts you in control

CCleaner was the top voted among AndroidPIT readers. But what else can you expect since it’s one of the most popular computer services out there. This app simply and efficiently removes useless, obsolete or temporary data. However, it should be used in moderation.

  • Clean Master: “You have a right to complain”

What makes this software attractive among PC and smartphone users is that it performs a device analysis; scanning the cache, browser history, received calls history, files and various storage areas on the system. Then, it’ll recommend what should be deleted.

In addition to all that, it gives a list of apps that are taking up a lot of memory in the cache and then, it gives the user a chance to choose if they’d like to remove that temporary data or not.

CCleaner is one of Android’s most popular cleaning tools / © AndroidPIT

Just like SD Maid, the app’s interface is simple and intuitive.

Contrary to its competitor Clean Master, which promises to speed up your smartphone, CCleaner doesn’t force users to end processes; it’s offered as an option, but the final decision is up to the user. This type of feature, in fact, is a stopgap, since when you close all your apps and start another, the last one will, of course, run faster. Yet, this is just time consuming because you’ll have to open the other apps again when you want to use them.

Install on Google Play


Don’t make the mistake of believing that your smartphone will have 50-70% better performance after using a cleaning tool. Sorry, but it’s just not true. For this article, I tried looking within our community of Android users for the answer to the best way to remove excess data from an operating system and, to my surprise, I realized that our users manually clean their devices much more often than they use an app.

  • How to pick the right Micro SD card for your Android phone

However, in case you don’t feel like doing the leg work, keep in mind that when you’re choosing an app to remove unwanted files that are taking up space on your device, look for apps that give you information about your options and not just an optimization button.

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If you have an older smartphone and you just can’t part ways with it yet, try rooting it, because the features on cleaning tools are much better on rooted phones. Also, take advantage of new features like Google Drive or Dropbox, as they can come in very handy. Also, if you can use an external memory device such as a microSD card, it could help save you some precious space.

Lastly, always keep your phone updated, and if you’re not using an app, remove it from the drawer. You can always download it again from the Play Store when you really need it.

Are there any other apps or processes that you’d recommend to clean your smartphone’s system?

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