rm -rf /some/path/* deletes all non-hidden files in that dir (and subdirs).

rm -rf /some/path/.* deletes all hidden files in that dir (but not subdirs) and also gives the following error/warning:

rm: cannot remove directory: `/some/dir/.'
rm: cannot remove directory: `/some/dir/..'

What is the proper way to remove all hidden and non-hidden files and folders recursively in a target directory without receiving the warning/error about . and ..?

12 Answers 12


* matches all non-dot-files, .[!.]* matches all dot files except . and files whose name begins with .., and ..?* matches all dot-dot files except ... Together they match all files other than . and ... If any of these three patterns matches nothing, it expands to itself; rm -f doesn't care about non-existent arguments, so this doesn't matter.

rm -rf ..?* .[!.]* *

You can also use find. This is more complex but has the advantage of working even if there are so many files that the wildcards above would expand beyond your system's command line length limit.

find . -name . -o -prune -exec rm -rf -- {} +

You may find it clearer to remove and recreate the directory. This has the advantage (or downside, as the case may be) of resulting in an empty directory even if another program is concurrently creating files in the original directory.

  • 14
    This should be the accepted answer, as it prevents parent traversal and possible deletion.
    – rbellamy
    Jun 12, 2015 at 17:06
  • The find alternative returns "success" even if some file is not successfully deleted; not good for script. Jul 29, 2016 at 7:22
  • With regards to your second find command, the manpage for find states "Because -delete implies -depth, you cannot usefully use -prune and -delete together." -- yet you use -prune -delete?
    – Doktor J
    Aug 18, 2016 at 21:29
  • 2
    @haylem In zsh, you need to write .[^.]* instead of .[!.]* when history substitution is enabled (which by default is the case interactively but not in scripts), because zsh parses ! as a history reference. But in zsh you wouldn't need that in the first place, you can just use *(D) to include dot files (without . or ..) in the wildcard match. Aug 1, 2017 at 14:29
  • 2
    rm -rf /path/to/subdirectory/{..?*,.[!.]*,*} 2>/dev/null
    – bjd2385
    Jun 6, 2018 at 7:00

You could always send error messages to /dev/null

rm -rf /some/path/.* 2> /dev/null

You could also just

rm -rf /some/path/
mkdir /some/path/

...then you won't have to bother with hidden files in the first place.

  • 4
    But what if I only want to delete the hidden files? Jun 1, 2014 at 13:52
  • 1
    @CMCDragonkai that should be a different question, but you can find the solution in Gilles' answer (rm ..?* .[!.]* should do it).
    – evilsoup
    Jun 1, 2014 at 18:14
  • 39
    Doesn't deleting and recreating the directory pose the risk that the file permissions are not right afterwards (especially important in server environments). Who could one create the folder with the same permissions as before automatically?
    – Yo Ludke
    Sep 23, 2015 at 8:46
  • 4
    @YoLudke You are absolutely correct, in many situations it doesn't matter but deleting the folder and recreating is not semantically equivalent to emptying that folder; so be careful doing that!
    – Thomas
    Dec 29, 2015 at 5:43
  • 6
    Deleting the directory is not always possible. In my case the directory is a docker volume, and while i can do whatever I want inside the volume, i cant change the volume itself from within the container.
    – dovidweisz
    Jun 3, 2019 at 15:15

Just realised this is the most convenient way in most Linux distros:

ls -A1 | xargs rm -rf


-A = list everything except . and ..

-1 = put every item in one line

  • 4
    downside which I see is: you need to 'cd' into directory to do this.
    – kumar
    Nov 24, 2016 at 9:38
  • ls -A1 /your/path/ | xargs rm -rf should apply Nov 24, 2016 at 14:02
  • nope..it does not help - For example: ls -A1 ~/test/ | xargs rm -rf this command deletes files which I am currently 'cd into'..not in the directory ~/test.
    – kumar
    Nov 25, 2016 at 6:44
  • 12
    It doesn't work if any of the file names contain blanks, newlines, quotes or backslashes. Jun 13, 2017 at 12:14
  • 1
    If there is blank inside filename, it will be split into multiple file names. So this command is better ls -A1 | xargs -I{} rm -rf {}
    – Qi Luo
    Feb 9 at 6:44

Either change the dotglob option of your shell and use *, or use something like find.

find somedir -mindepth 1 -delete
  • 3
    Or you could simply rm -rf /some/dir and then create a new empty directory in its place.
    – tripleee
    May 26, 2013 at 12:11
  • @tripleee, in such case permissions might differ in the result.
    – Faither
    Dec 18, 2021 at 21:16
  • Sure, there are scenarios where you can't recreate it exactly if it didn't belong to you in the first place even though you had write permissions. But in most real-life scenarios all you need is check the permissions so you can set them back to what they were.
    – tripleee
    Dec 19, 2021 at 12:04
  • Any downsides to this? Curious as to why this is not the top answer...
    – Xen
    Aug 26 at 15:53

This should work just like @Gilles answer but more compact:

rm -rf {,.[!.],..?}*


rm -rf dir/to/files/{,.[!.],..?}*

should also add an if for usage in scripts just to be safe:

if [ -d "$DIR" ]; then
    rm -rf ${DIR}/{,.[!.],..?}*
  • 1
    Oddly enough, as a bash alias on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, the previous answer wasn't working. However, alias cleandir='rm -rf {,.[!.],..?}*' does. Apr 14, 2018 at 18:44
  • @StevenVentimiglia Interactions with ! and history? What shell? Mar 8, 2020 at 19:52
  • Flippin heck - NO. Do not ever write rm -rf $x/..... It $x evaluates to empty you will delete a whole lot more than you want to. And believe me, and some point, now or later, it WILL be empty. just find another way - do a cd to $DIR like: `if cd $DIR # NO TRAILING SLASH then if [ "/" != "$(pwd)" ] rm -rf ./ Jan 10 at 18:11

I suggest you experiment with

Turn-ON dots (hidden files)

  • set dotglob

    shopt -s dotglob

Turn-OFF dots

  • unset dotglob

    shopt -u dotglob

This method worked exactly as I wished for a copy command that was missing the hidden directories.

    shopt -s    dotglob
    cp    -rvn  ./$from/*  ./$too/
    shopt -u    dotglob

So I did a remove (delete), and oops ...

    shopt -s    dotglob
    rm -fr ../message_splitter--044a/*
    shopt -u    dotglob

... that works too!

It occurs to me that you dear reader can't see the message_splitter directory. Any way it has a .svn folder that needs to be removed, and copied Into.

From man page ...

dotglob If set, bash includes filenames beginning with a `.' in the results of pathname expansion.



Find is your friend.

find ! -name '.' ! -name '..' -delete

% find ! -name '.' ! -name '..'
% find ! -name '.' ! -name '..' -delete    
% find ! -name '.' ! -name '..'     

If you wish to use recursively search something other your current directory ($PWD), then add a path right after the find command; e.g., find /path ! -name '.' ! -name '..' -delete. If you only want to descend n number of directories, then use the -maxdepth n option right after the /path parameter.

The above command was tested on an Ubuntu 13.04 system. Will likely work on other, modern linux systems.

  • to delete all directories in the current directory you could do find . ! -name '.' ! -name '..' -type d -delete
    – Andy
    Jul 3, 2016 at 4:01

What is the proper way to remove all hidden and non-hidden files and folders recursively in a target directory without receiving the warning/error about . and ..?

Assuming the directory in question is ./dir, then

rm -rf ./dir

would remove all files in ./dir, including hidden files and directories, recursively, and including the ./dir directory itself.

If you do not want to delete the directory itself, then you may just recreate it afterwards, or use

find ./dir -mindepth 1 -delete

or if you find does not support -delete,

find ./dir -mindepth 1 -depth -exec rm -rf {} ';'

Using -mindepth 1 allows you to keep the top-level directory ./dir.


Why nobody mentions:

rm -rf * .*
  • 3
    Because this gives the same warnings that the user in the question wants to avoid.
    – Kusalananda
    Apr 10, 2020 at 8:37
  • Oh my bad. But this is the shortest one line to get the thing done.
    – Qian Chen
    Apr 10, 2020 at 18:32

What about using find with both -maxdepth and -mindepth? This can be also run outside the directory you want to clear.

find target/ -maxdepth 1 -mindepth 1 -exec rm -fr -- {} +;

Here's a complete example:

mkdir -p target/{plain{0..3},.hidden{0..3}}; 
touch target/{plain{0..3},.hidden{0..3}} target/{plain{0..3},.hidden{0..3}}/{plain{0..3},.hidden{0..3}};
tree -a;
find target/ -maxdepth 1 -mindepth 1 -exec rm -fr -- {} +;
tree -a;

If you don't mind an error

# rm -rf will force remove a file $(ls -la) lists all files and allows rm to iterate over the results.
rm -rf $(ls -la)

or, 2> /dev/null suppresses the error thrown about deleting . ..

rm -rf $(ls -la) 2> /dev/null
  • Thanks for contributing an answer to this question. You can improve the helpfulness of this and any other answers you provide in the future by including what each peice of the commands you have used do. Jan 3, 2020 at 18:54
  • You will be aware that ls -la outputs quite a lot of things that are not filenames. Trying to delete drwxr-xr-x will likely fail, and a string like -rw-r--r-- would be taken as a set of options by rm. Additionally, this would fail to delete anything that has spaces, tabs or newlines in their names.
    – Kusalananda
    Jan 3, 2020 at 21:42

Try this code:

Dirlist=``find /some/path/ -type d -name '.[^.]*'`
for HiddenDir in $Dirlist
    rm -rf $HiddenDir

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