How to delete cookies on your iPhone (and why you might want to)


How to delete cookies on your iPhone (and why you might want to)
Mac Tip #521, 01 February 2012

Sometimes Safari on your iOS device misbehaves and the only solution is to delete the browser cookies. Here’s how to do that.

I use Google Apps with my main email address. That means that I’m using Gmail. But sometimes there’s one big frustration: the error message that stops me even seeing my mail. 414. That’s an error The requested URL … is too large to process. That’s all we know.

414 The requested URL is too large to process.

414 The requested URL is too large to process.

I don’t care very much for Apple Mail and since I like the way things work in Safari that’s what I use for reading, writing and sending emails on my iPhone and iPad. On my Mac I use the most excellent Mailplane. The same problem crops up on all of them though, and having taken some time to track down the solution, I want to share it.

These instructions apply to iOS devices: iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Even if you’re not using Gmail you’ll still learn about quitting iOS apps and deleting cookies in Safari on iOS. Both are handy troubleshooting techniques.

Quick Start

  1. Quit the browser.
  2. Go to Safari Settings.
  3. Delete cookies.

Want more detail? Read the full Tip below.

Quit Safari

You may think that simply pressing the Home button gets you out of Safari, but you need to do a bit more as it may actually still be running in the background.

To actually and definitively quit an app on iOS:

iOS Quit icon in the list of running apps.

iOS Quit icon in the list of running apps.

  1. Press the Home button to close the app.
  2. Double-press the Home button to bring up a list of recently used apps across the bottom of the screen.
  3. Tap and hold on the app you wish to quit — in this case, Safari. All the apps in the list start to jiggle, and each displays a red delete icon at top left. The icon shows a white circle filled with red, and with a white dash across the middle.
  4. Tap on the delete icon. The app is removed from the list of recently used apps. [Note: it's not removed from the iPhone.] The app has now been quit.
  5. Press the Home button once to return to normal mode.

Delete all Cookies

When you visit websites they often store one or more bits of information on your computer or device in a small file called a cookie. The only solution to this Gmail problem I’ve discovered it to delete any Google cookies. To delete cookies on your iOS device:

Call up Safari settings.

Call up Safari settings.

  1. Tap on the Settings icon to activate the Settings app.
  2. If necessary, scroll down until you see the Safari item in the list.
  3. Tap on Safari to display relevant settings on the right.
  4. Scroll down the Safari settings until you see the item Clear Cookies and Data.
  5. Tap on Clear Cookies and Data. An alert appears with options to Clear Cookies and Data or to cancel.
  6. Tap the Clear Cookies and Data button to remove all cookies.

In writing this Tip I think I’ve noticed small differences in how my iPhone 4S and my iPad 2 work through these steps. They are almost identical though.

Now start up Safari again and have another go at using your Gmail account. You should have to log in again, but after that all should work as expected.

Selectively delete Cookies

The steps above delete all Cookies, rather than just those from Google.

Selectively delete cookies.

Selectively delete cookies.

For a more selective approach use the Advanced button instead of the Clear Cookies and Data button.

  1. Tap on the Settings icon to activate the Settings app.
  2. If necessary, scroll down until you see the Safari item in the list.
  3. Tap on Safari to display relevant settings on the right.
  4. Scroll down the Safari settings until you see the item Advanced at the end of the page.
  5. Tap on the Advanced button to display a list of all cookies stored on your device.
  6. Tap the Edit button at top right of the screen. A red delete icon appears beside each item.
  7. Tap once on the delete icon beside one item in the list, such as the mail.google.com item in my screenshot. The icon rotates and a red Delete button appears beside the item.
  8. Tap once on the red Delete button. The item is removed from the list.
  9. When you’re finished deleting cookies tap the Done button at top right of the screen.

I generally delete all the cookies from Google, just to be sure. If you delete only one and that doesn’t fix the problem try repeating all the steps and deleting more or all Google cookies.

Gmail seems to run out of steam

This problem crops up for me at regular intervals. Occasionally I see a message about increasing storage space and always agree. Deleting cookies as described above is the only technique that has helped me get back to using Gmail in Safari on my iPad or iPhone.

What do you think? Did you try this Tip out? Tell us in the Comments online how this Tip helped you.

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2 Comments

  1. Frieda said:

    Thanks for the great tip. My 3Gs is a year and a half old and it’s “glitchy” now, it closes apps while I’m using them. I’ll give this a “go”.

  2. Rainr said:

    Does this also work for stored cookies in other apps?
    For example the in-app browsers of twitter clients.

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