How To Remove Docker Images

Remove Docker Images

Docker has revolutionized the way we develop, package, and deploy applications by leveraging the power of containerization. As you work with Docker, you’ll inevitably accumulate a large number of images over time. These images can consume significant disk space and make it challenging to manage your development environment. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore various methods to effectively remove Docker images, helping you keep your system organized and reclaim valuable storage space.

Understanding Docker Images

Before we dive into the process of removing Docker images, let’s take a moment to understand what they are and how they work. Docker images are read-only templates that contain the necessary files, libraries, and configurations to run an application. They are built using a series of layers, with each layer representing a specific set of changes or additions to the previous layer. Multiple images can share the same underlying layers, which helps optimize storage and reduces duplication.

Docker images are stored on disk and consume storage space proportional to their size. As you pull new images, create containers, and build custom images, the number of images on your system can quickly grow. This is why it’s essential to periodically remove unused and outdated images to maintain a clean and efficient Docker environment.

Identifying Images to Remove

The first step in removing Docker images is to identify which images are no longer needed. Docker provides the docker images command to list all the images currently available on your system. When you run this command, you’ll see an output similar to the following:

REPOSITORY          TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             SIZE
myapp               latest              abc123def456        3 days ago          200MB
nginx               1.21                789012ghi345        2 weeks ago         150MB
<none>              <none>              567890jkl123        1 month ago         100MB

Each row represents an image, and the columns provide important information:

  • REPOSITORY: The name of the image repository.
  • TAG: The tag associated with the image, indicating its version or variant.
  • IMAGE ID: The unique identifier of the image.
  • CREATED: The timestamp when the image was created.
  • SIZE: The size of the image on the disk.

To identify images that can be safely removed, consider the following factors:

  1. Dangling Images: Dangling images are untagged images that are not referenced by any container. They are typically the result of building new images without tagging them or when a new image is built with the same tag as an existing image. Dangling images are denoted by <none> in the REPOSITORY and TAG columns.
  2. Unused Images: Unused images are those that are not currently being used by any container. They may have been used in the past but are no longer needed. You can identify unused images by comparing the list of images with the list of running and stopped containers.
  3. Outdated Images: Over time, you may have multiple versions of the same image, identified by different tags. It’s a good practice to remove outdated versions that are no longer required, keeping only the latest or specific versions that your applications depend on.

To filter images based on specific criteria, you can use the --filter flag with the docker images command. For example, to list only dangling images, you can run:

docker images --filter "dangling=true"

Similarly, you can filter images by repository name, tag name, or creation date using appropriate filter expressions.

Removing Individual Images

Once you have identified the images you want to remove, you can use the docker rmi command to delete them. The basic syntax for removing an image is as follows:


You can specify either the unique IMAGE ID or the REPOSITORY:TAG combination to identify the image you want to remove.

For example, to remove an image with the ID abc123def456, you would run:

docker rmi abc123def456

If you want to remove an image by its repository and tag, you can use the following command:

docker rmi myapp:latest

It’s important to note that you cannot remove an image if it is currently being used by one or more containers. If you attempt to remove such an image, Docker will display an error message indicating that the image is in use. To remove an image that is in use, you first need to stop and remove the associated containers.

If you want to force the removal of an image along with any associated containers, you can use the -f or --force flag with the docker rmi command. Be cautious when using this flag, as it will remove the containers without giving you a chance to gracefully stop them.

docker rmi -f abc123def456

Removing Multiple Images

In some cases, you may want to remove multiple images at once. Docker allows you to specify multiple image IDs or repository:tag combinations as arguments to the docker rmi command.

For example, to remove three images with the IDs abc123def456, 789012ghi345, and 567890jkl123, you can run:

docker rmi abc123def456 789012ghi345 567890jkl123

If you have a large number of images to remove based on a specific pattern, you can use command-line tools like grep and awk in combination with docker rmi. For instance, to remove all images whose repository name starts with “myapp“, you can use the following command:

docker images | grep "^myapp" | awk '{print $3}' | xargs docker rmi

This command pipes the output of docker images to grep, which filters the lines starting with “myapp“. The awk command extracts the third column (image ID) from the filtered output and xargs passes the image IDs as arguments to docker rmi.

Pruning Images

Docker provides a convenient way to remove dangling images and unused images in bulk using the docker image prune command. When you run this command, Docker identifies and removes all dangling images from your system.

docker image prune

To remove not only dangling images but also all unused images (images that are not referenced by any container), you can use the -a or --all flag:

docker image prune -a

By default, docker image prune removes images that are not used by any container, regardless of their age. However, you can use the --filter flag to specify additional criteria for pruning images. For example, to remove unused images older than 24 hours, you can run:

docker image prune --filter "until=24h"

In addition to docker image prune, Docker also provides the docker system prune command, which removes all unused images, containers, networks, and build cache. This command is useful when you want to perform a comprehensive cleanup of your Docker environment.

docker system prune

Be cautious when using docker system prune, as it will remove all unused resources, including stopped containers and unused networks.

Removing Images in Use by Containers

As mentioned earlier, you cannot directly remove an image that is currently being used by one or more containers. To remove such an image, you need to stop and remove the dependent containers first.

Here’s a step-by-step process to remove an image that is in use by containers:

  1. List all running containers using the docker ps command:
docker ps
  1. Stop the containers that are using the image you want to remove. You can stop a container using the docker stop command followed by the container ID or name:
docker stop [CONTAINER ID or NAME]
  1. Once the containers are stopped, remove them using the docker rm command:
docker rm [CONTAINER ID or NAME]
  1. After removing the dependent containers, you can now remove the image using the docker rmi command as described earlier.

It’s important to note that stopping and removing containers will result in the loss of any data stored within those containers unless you have properly persisted the data using volumes or bind mounts.


Managing Docker images is crucial for maintaining a clean and efficient development environment. By regularly removing unused, outdated, and dangling images, you can reclaim valuable disk space and keep your Docker system organized. This comprehensive guide has covered various methods to remove Docker images, including removing individual images, removing multiple images, pruning images, and handling images in use by containers.

Remember to follow best practices such as tagging images meaningfully, using specific version tags, and integrating image pruning into your CI/CD pipelines. Additionally, consider leveraging automated cleanup tools to streamline the process of managing Docker images.

By implementing these techniques and best practices, you’ll be able to effectively manage your Docker images, optimize storage usage, and ensure a clean and efficient Docker environment for your development and deployment needs.


r00t is a seasoned Linux system administrator with a wealth of experience in the field. Known for his contributions to, r00t has authored numerous tutorials and guides, helping users navigate the complexities of Linux systems. His expertise spans across various Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, CentOS, and Debian. r00t's work is characterized by his ability to simplify complex concepts, making Linux more accessible to users of all skill levels. His dedication to the Linux community and his commitment to sharing knowledge makes him a respected figure in the field.
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