How To Remove Docker Containers, Images, Volumes, and Networks

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8 min read

Docker is an open-source containerization platform that allows you to quickly build, test, and deploy applications as portable containers that can run virtually anywhere.

When working with Docker, you can quickly accumulate a large number of unused objects that consume significant disk space and clutter the output produced by the Docker commands. Docker doesn’t remove unused objects such as containers, images, volumes, and networks unless you explicitly tell it to do so.

This guide serves as a “cheat sheet” to help Docker users keep their system organized, and to free disk space by removing unused Docker containers, images, volumes, and networks.

Removing All Unused Objects

The docker system prune command removes all stopped containers, dangling images, and unused networks:

docker system prune

This command will prompt you to confirm the operation:

WARNING! This will remove:
        - all stopped containers
        - all networks not used by at least one container
        - all dangling images
        - all build cache
Are you sure you want to continue? [y/N]

Use the -f or --force option to bypass the prompt.

By default, the command doesn’t remove unused volumes to prevent losing important data. If you want to remove all unused volumes, pass the --volumes option:

docker system prune --volumes
WARNING! This will remove:
        - all stopped containers
        - all networks not used by at least one container
        - all volumes not used by at least one container
        - all dangling images
        - all build cache
Are you sure you want to continue? [y/N] y

Removing Docker Containers

Docker containers are not automatically removed when you stop them unless you start the container using the --rm flag.

Removing one or more containers

To remove one or more Docker containers, use the docker container rm command, followed by the IDs of the containers you want to remove.

You can get a list of all containers bu invoking the docker container ls command with the -a option:

docker container ls -a

The output should look something like this:

CONTAINER ID        IMAGE                   COMMAND                  CREATED             STATUS                      PORTS               NAMES
cc3f2ff51cab        centos                  "/bin/bash"              2 months ago        Created                                         competent_nightingale
cd20b396a061        solita/ubuntu-systemd   "/bin/bash -c 'exec …"   2 months ago        Exited (137) 2 months ago                       systemd
fb62432cf3c1        ubuntu                  "/bin/bash"              3 months ago        Exited (130) 3 months ago                       jolly_mirzakhani

Once you know the CONTAINER ID of the containers you want to delete, pass it to the docker container rm command. For example, to remove the first two containers listed in the output above you would run:

docker container rm cc3f2ff51cab cd20b396a061

If you get an error message similar to the one shown below, it means that the container is running. You’ll need to stop the container before removing it.

Error response from daemon: You cannot remove a running container fc983ebf4771d42a8bd0029df061cb74dc12cb174530b2036987575b83442b47. Stop the container before attempting removal or force remove.

Removing all stopped containers

To remove all stopped containers use the docker container prune command:

docker container prune
WARNING! This will remove all stopped containers.
Are you sure you want to continue? [y/N] y

To avoid being prompted use the -f or --force option.

If you want to get a list of all non-running (stopped) containers that will be removed with docker container prune, use the following command:

docker container ls -a --filter status=exited --filter status=created 

Removing containers using filters

The docker container prune command allows you to remove containers based on a certain condition using the --filter option.

At the time of the writing of this article, the currently supported filters are until and label. You can specify more than one filter by using multiple --filter options.

For example, to remove all images created more than 12 hours ago, you would run:

docker container prune --filter "until=12h"

Stop and remove all containers

To stop all running containers use the docker container stop command followed by a the containers IDs:

docker container stop $(docker container ls -aq)

The command docker container ls -aq generates a list of all containers.

Once all containers are stopped, you can remove them using the docker container rm command followed by the containers ID list.

docker container rm $(docker container ls -aq)

Removing Docker Images

When you download a Docker image, it is kept on the server until you manually remove it.

Removing one or more images

To remove one or more Docker images first you need to find the images IDs. Use the docker images ls command to find the IDs:

docker image ls

The output should look something like this:

REPOSITORY              TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             SIZE
centos                  latest              75835a67d134        7 days ago          200MB
ubuntu                  latest              2a4cca5ac898        2 months ago        111MB
linuxize/fedora         latest              a45d6dca3361        3 months ago        311MB
java                    8-jre               e44d62cf8862        3 months ago        311MB

Once you’ve located the images you want to remove, pass their IMAGE ID to the docker image rm command. For example, to remove the first two images listed in the output above you would run:

docker image rm 75835a67d134 2a4cca5ac898

If you get an error message as the one shown below, it means that an existing container uses the image. To remove the image, you will have to remove the container first.

Error response from daemon: conflict: unable to remove repository reference "centos" (must force) - container cd20b396a061 is using its referenced image 75835a67d134

Removing dangling images

Docker provides a docker image prune command that can be used to remove dangled and unused images.

A dangling image is an image that is not tagged and is not used by any container. To remove dangling images type:

docker image prune
WARNING! This will remove all dangling images.
Are you sure you want to continue? [y/N] y

Use the -f or --force option to bypass the prompt.

Be careful when running this command. If you built an image without a tag, it will be removed.

Removing all unused images

To remove all images which are not referenced by any existing container, not just the dangling ones, use the prune command with the -a option:

docker image prune -a
WARNING! This will remove all images without at least one container associated to them.
Are you sure you want to continue? [y/N] y

Removing images using filters

With the docker image prune command, you can also remove images based on a certain condition using the --filter option.

At the time of the writing of this article, the currently supported filters are until and label. You can use more than one filter.

For example, to remove all images that are created more than 7 days (168 hours) ago, you would run:

docker image prune -a --filter "until=12h"

Removing Docker Volumes

Removing one or more volumes

To remove one or more Docker volumes use the docker volume ls command to find the ID of the volumes you want to remove.

docker volume ls

The output should look something like this:

DRIVER              VOLUME NAME
local               4e12af8913af888ba67243dec78419bf18adddc3c7a4b2345754b6db64293163
local               terano

Once you’ve found the VOLUME NAME of the volumes you want to remove, pass them to the docker volume rm command. For example, to remove the first volume listed in the output above, run:

docker volume rm 4e12af8913af888ba67243dec78419bf18adddc3c7a4b2345754b6db64293163

If you get an error similar to the one shown below, it means that an existing container uses the volume. To remove the volume, you will have to remove the container first.

Error response from daemon: remove 4e12af8913af888ba67243dec78419bf18adddc3c7a4b2345754b6db64293163: volume is in use - [c7188935a38a6c3f9f11297f8c98ce9996ef5ddad6e6187be62bad3001a66c8e]

Removing all unused volumes

To remove all unused volumes use the docker image prune command:

docker volume prune
WARNING! This will remove all local volumes not used by at least one container.
Are you sure you want to continue? [y/N]

Use the -f or --force option to bypass the prompt.

Removing Docker Networks

Removing one or more networks

To remove one or more Docker networks use the docker network ls command to find the ID of the networks you want to remove.

docker network ls

The output should look something like this:

NETWORK ID          NAME                DRIVER              SCOPE
107b8ac977e3        bridge              bridge              local
ab998267377d        host                host                local
c520032c3d31        my-bridge-network   bridge              local
9bc81b63f740        none                null                local

Once you’ve located the networks you want to remove, pass their NETWORK ID to the docker network rm command. For example to remove the network with the name my-bridge-network run:

docker network rm c520032c3d31

If you get an error similar to the one shown below, it means that an existing container uses the network. To remove the network you will have to remove the container first.

Error response from daemon: network my-bridge-network id 6f5293268bb91ad2498b38b0bca970083af87237784017be24ea208d2233c5aa has active endpoints

Removing all unused network

Use the docker network prune command to remove all unused networks.

docker network prune

You’ll be prompted to continue:

WARNING! This will remove all networks not used by at least one container.
Are you sure you want to continue? [y/N] 

Use the -f or --force option to bypass the prompt.

Removing networks using filters

With the docker network prune command you can remove networks based on condition using the --filter option.

At the time of the writing of this article, the currently supported filters are until and label. You can use more than one filter by using multiple --filter options.

For example, to remove all networks that are created more than 12 hours ago, run:

docker network prune -a --filter "until=12h"

Conclusion

In this guide, we have shown you some of the common commands for removing Docker containers, images, volumes, and networks.

You should also check out the official Docker documentation .

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.