How To Delete A WordPress Theme (Easy Guide)

Apr 8, 2022

How To Delete A WordPress Theme (Easy Guide)

Apr 8, 2022

One of the most attractive features of WordPress is the abundance of unique website designs that are available to you. There are tens of thousands of free and premium WordPress themes on the market and they can all be installed from the WordPress admin in just a few seconds. This makes it easy to test many different designs on your website.

It is best practice to delete a WordPress theme that is not being used, though this is something that many WordPress users fail to do. If you only deactivate a WordPress theme, its settings and files will remain on your website.

In this article, I will explain why you should delete a theme in WordPress that is previously installed and walk you through the process of removing them from your website.

TL;DR – To safely delete a theme on your WordPress site, create a staging site using a WordPress Staging Plugin like BlogVault. Delete your theme here and test your staging site to ensure your website functions correctly. You can then push the changes you made on your staging site to your live site. This is the safest and easiest way to delete a WordPress theme.

WordPress Themes Repo Page
The WordPress themes directory.

Why Should You Delete WordPress Theme That is Inactive?

When I am trying out new website designs, there may be several WordPress themes installed on my website. Once I have decided which WordPress theme I will be using moving forward, I make a point of deleting all other WordPress themes from my website.

There are many reasons why it is important to remove a WordPress theme:

Database Efficiency
(Performance)

WordPress themes store their configuration settings in the WordPress database. A theme may require many additional database tables and rows to operate correctly and this data remains in the database when the theme is inactive so that you can restore the design easily later.

By removing data from inactive WordPress themes, you can decrease the size of the WordPress database and ensure it remains efficient. This can lead to improved page-loading times.
Server Space & Resources
(Performance)

WordPress stores themes in the website.com/wp-content/themes directory and theme files will remain in this directory until a WordPress theme is deleted. Website hosting companies allocate customers a limited amount of storage for website files, therefore your monthly hosting costs can increase if you store many additional WordPress designs.

WordPress will also continue to check if deactivated WordPress themes require updates, which can increase the strain on your server’s CPU.
Improved Website Security
WordPress themes and plugins that are not regularly updated increase the risk of security holes that hackers can exploit. It is therefore important that all WordPress themes are kept up to date, whether they are active or inactive.

Although WordPress will continue to check for updates for themes that have been deactivated, it is better to remove inactive WordPress themes and install them again later if required.

Why you should delete unused WordPress themes.

My advice is to only keep WordPress themes and plugins that are actually required. This leads to a cleaner setup, improved performance and better website security.

* Please note that this article has screenshots from my WordPress test area, where I have multiple WordPress themes installed for testing purposes.

When You Shouldn’t Delete a Theme in WordPress

Whilst it is best practice to delete inactive WordPress themes, there are a few situations where you may want to keep them installed on your website.

Testing
During the process of selecting a design for your website, you may have over a dozen WordPress themes installed at once. It is useful to keep each WordPress theme available during testing so that can you easily switch between designs.
Parent Themes
A child theme inherits the properties of its parent theme. As such, you should not delete a parent WordPress theme if its child theme is active.
WordPress Multisite
WordPress Multisite allows you to create your own WordPress.com style network of websites. Before you delete a theme on a WordPress Multisite network, be sure to check it is not being used by a network website.
Situations where themes should not be deleted.

Apart from the above scenarios, it is best to remove WordPress themes that are not required.

Things to Do Before Deleting a WordPress Theme

The old idiom states that you should “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best”. This is something to bear in mind whenever you are making modifications to your website.

It is highly recommended that you do a full website backup before deleting a WordPress theme. This allows you to fully restore your website if you run into any unforseen issues.

Backing Up WordPress
A backup should be created for your WordPress database and all website files. Although this can be done manually, it is generally quicker to generate a one-click website backup via your website host or one of the many WordPress backup solutions available.
Website Staging
WordPress staging greatly reduces the risk of something going wrong, which in turn reduces the need for a full website restore.

A website staging area creates an exact copy of your live website so that you can safely make modifications to your website. These changes can then be pushed to your live website once you have verified there are no issues.
Always be prepared for unexpected problems.

The solution that I use when making big changes is BlogVault. It allows me to perform one-click website backups, create website staging areas, monitor website uptime, and more.

How to Delete a WordPress Theme Safely (5 Easy Ways)

WordPress theme files can be deleted from your website in a number of ways. Before you apply one of the methods below, please be sure to deactivate your theme from the WordPress admin area. You can do this by activating another theme from the WordPress themes page.

Activating a WordPress Theme
WordPress themes can be activated using the “Activate” button.

As noted previously, it is best to do a full website backup before deleting a WordPress theme.

Please also be aware that when you change WordPress themes, any sample content that was added by your previous WordPress theme may need to be deleted manually. Image thumbnails will also have to be recreated using a WordPress plugin such as Regenerate Thumbnails. I speak about this issue more later 🙂

1. Delete a WordPress Theme from Admin Dashboard

Step 1. The WordPress themes page can be accessed from the Appearance menu in the WordPress admin area. To delete a WordPress theme from this page, you need to first ensure the theme has been deactivated.

Appearance dashboard in WordPress admin area
The WordPress themes area.

Step 2. To load the theme details box for a WordPress theme, simply hover over its thumbnail and click. The WordPress theme can then be deleted using the red delete button that is displayed at the bottom-right of the theme details box.

WordPress Theme Details
The theme details box is where you activate a theme and where you delete it.

Once you have confirmed you want to delete the WordPress theme, its files will be removed from your website.

2. Deleteing a WordPress Theme Using FTP

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a communication standard that you can use to connect directly to all of your website’s files. Popular open-source FTP clients such as FileZilla are free to download and are available for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Step 1. To delete a WordPress theme using FTP, all you need to do is connect to your website, navigate to your WordPress installation and then go to the /wp-content/themes directory. All WordPress themes are stored in this directory.

Step 2. If you right-click on a WordPress theme directory and select delete, the FTP client will remove the WordPress theme from your website.

Delete a WordPress Theme Via FTP
Deleting a WordPress theme via FTP.

Your website hosting company will provide information on how you can connect to your website using FTP. Be sure to speak to your website host directly if you are having difficulties getting connected.

3. Delete a Theme in WordPress From a Hosting C-Panel

Website hosting control panels provide many tools and applications to help you administrate your website. One of the most useful tools is the file manager, which can be used to manage WordPress files directly from your browser.

Step 1. The first thing you need to do is log in to your hosting control panel and locate the file manager. The file manager can usually be found from the main dashboard of your hosting control panel, though its exact location will depend on whether your host is using a unique control panel or a customised variation of a hosting control panel such as cPanel or Plesk.

cPanel
The hosting control panel cPanel has many useful tools and features.

Step 2. The process of deleting a WordPress theme using the file manager is similar to deleting a theme using FTP. All you need to do is navigate to the WordPress theme directory at /wp-content/themes.

Step 3. You can then right-click on any WordPress theme and select the delete option.

deleting a wordpress theme in file manager
Deleting a WordPress theme in cPanel.

Please speak to your website hosting company if you are unsure about using the file manager or need confirmation of where your WordPress files are located.

4. Remove WordPress theme Using WP-CLI

WP-CLI is a command-line interface tool that allows you to manage WordPress using many different commands. It is a solution that will save developers and advanced users time as important updates can be processed using simple commands. For example, WordPress can be updated using the command wp core update.

WordPress themes can be managed through WP-CLI using the wp theme command.

The command wp theme list can be used to see a list of all installed WordPress themes. This is useful for confirming the directory name of the WordPress theme you want to delete.

wp theme list

The wp theme delete command can be used to delete a WordPress theme. The name of the theme directory should be used alongside this command. For example, to delete the WordPress theme Twenty Twenty-Two, you would use the command wp theme delete twentytwentytwo.

wp theme delete twentytwentytwo

Check out the wp theme page in the developer’s area of WordPress.org for a complete list of WP-CLI commands that help you manage WordPress themes.

5. Deleting unused WordPress Themes Using BlogVault

In addition to website backups and website staging, BlogVault simplifies the task of performing updates and managing WordPress themes and plugins.

Step 1. The first thing you need to do is access the themes page on BlogVault. You will see an option to manage WordPress themes from the main BlogVault dashboard for your website.

BlogVault Site Dashboard
The BlogVault website dashboard.

Step 2. On the theme management page, you can administrate WordPress themes by selecting themes and clicking on the Select Action dropdown menu on the right-hand side of the page. To delete a WordPress theme in BlogVault, all you have to do is select delete from this dropdown menu.

BlogVault manage themes dashboard
Managing WordPress themes in BlogVault.

Step 3. BlogVault will give you the option of backing up your website before a WordPress theme is deleted. I recommend performing this step so you can restore the theme later if required.

Remove WordPress Theme using BlogVault
It is prudent to take a backup before deleting a WordPress theme.

BlogVault’s management system makes it easy to manage multiple WordPress websites and helps you create website backups before you make any major changes to your website.

The Difference Between Deleting & Uninstalling a WordPress theme

As you have seen, there are multiple ways to delete a WordPress theme from your website, however, it is important to recognize that these methods will only remove the theme files from your website. They do not remove theme settings and other data that themes add to the WordPress database.

To fully uninstall a WordPress theme from your website, you need to remove:

  • Theme files
  • Theme settings and data from the WordPress database
  • Dummy content such as posts, pages and images
  • Menus
  • Widgets

A small number of WordPress themes offer an uninstallation option in their settings area. When this is selected, the theme will remove its settings and data from your WordPress database when the theme is deleted.

Sadly, very few WordPress themes offer this functionality, so you normally need to tidy up your website manually.

Things to Do After Deleting a WordPress Theme

Once you have removed a theme and its files from a WordPress website, there are a number of things you can do to tidy things up.

This includes checking your website, removing theme data dummy content, and deleting menus and widgets that are no longer required.

Review Your Website
Deleting a deactivated WordPress theme from your website is low risk, but it is always worth checking your live website to ensure that everything is still functioning correctly.

If you are using a WordPress caching plugin, be sure to clear your website cache. I also recommend reviewing all activated WordPress plugins to see if they are still required with your currently activated WordPress theme. Image thumbnails should be regenerated using a plugin such as Regenerate Thumbnails too.
Clean the WordPress Database
Removing settings and data from a previously uninstalled WordPress theme is not something that WordPress beginners should attempt as it requires database management experience.

For those that are comfortable modifying the WordPress database, it is worthwhile manually removing the tables and rows that were originally added by the WordPress theme. Be sure to create a backup before you delete any rows or tables 🙂
Deleting Dummy Content
Modern WordPress themes offer beautiful pre-made website designs and page templates to help you build a great looking website in minutes. Unfortunately, when you change to another WordPress theme, those designs are unlikely to work well with your new theme.

When you delete a WordPress theme, take the time to review your media library, posts and pages. You may find a lot of content that is no longer required.
Removing Widgets & Menus
When a WordPress theme has been deleted, the widgets and menus that were used with the design will be made inactive. These will have to be manually deleted if you are not using them with your current WordPress theme.
Things to do after deleting a WordPress theme.

The safest way to delete a WordPress theme and clean up the unwanted data that is leftover is to create a website staging area. This allows you to safely make modifications and publish them when you have verified there are no issues.

If you do not use a website staging area, you should at least make a website backup beforehand so that you can restore your WordPress site if you run into any unexpected issues.

Final Thoughts

Whilst it is common for WordPress users to store many WordPress designs on their website, it is good practice to delete a WordPress theme you are not using. This will reduce the size of the WordPress database, improve website security and reduce the number of updates WordPress has to perform.

WordPress themes can be easily deleted in a number of ways. Whichever method you use to remove a WordPress theme, be sure to do a review of your website afterward and remove anything that is no longer required.

Good luck.

Kevin