How to Find and Remove Inactive WordPress Plugins to Speed Up Your Website

Last updated on Feb 15th, 2024 | 6 min

TL;DR: To properly uninstall inactive WordPress plugins, go to "Plugins" in your WP dashboard, and delete the ones with the tag "inactive." Note that while uninstalling removes most code, some plugins may leave residual data in your database, including settings and tables. For a thorough cleanup, use a plugin or manual methods to inspect and remove any remnants, but only after doing a backup.

When was the last time you went through all your WordPress plugins?

If the answer doesn’t pop right up, it’s been too long.

As a WordPress site owner, you might have installed various plugins to improve your site’s performance. However, not all of them were worth sticking with, and more often than not, they ended up outstaying their welcome.

In this article, we will discuss how inactive WordPress plugins can negatively impact your site’s speed and performance and how to go about them in a fast, effective way.

What are inactive WordPress plugins?

Inactive WordPress plugins are the ones you have installed on your website but are not currently in use.

WordPress plugins can become inactive for various reasons, such as not meeting your website's requirements, conflicts with other plugins, the website's overall goals have changed, or the plugin’s simply no longer supported.

Do unused plugins impact your WordPress site speed?

In short, yes! Inactive plugins can negatively impact your website's speed and performance in several ways:

  • they take up space on your server, which can lead to slower loading times
  • they add to the technical debt and can conflict with other plugins or WordPress updates, causing unforeseen errors and crashes that slow down your website
  • they can also pose a security risk, as they may contain vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit

How unused WordPress plugins harm your site speed pie chart

How to identify unused plugins on a WordPress site?

It’s pretty straightforward.

To find which plugins are inactive in your WordPress dashboard, simply navigate to the “Plugins” section. There, you will see a list of all Installed plugins on your website.

Click on the Inactive tab to see a list of all the unused WordPress plugins:

Installed Plugins tab

While you’re at it, we recommend you also flip through the active plugins too. Determine if there are any that are no longer useful or may simply be overlapping with another plugin’s features.

For example, you’ve installed EWWW Image Optimizer in the past, but now you get all your images optimized (+ code, fonts, and other resources) by a more advanced solution, like NitroPack.

Consider parting with such plugins the same way as you would with inactive ones.

How to remove inactive plugins from a WordPress site

Before removing any plugin, it is essential to take a backup of your website to ensure you can restore it in case of any issues.

Deactivating vs. Deleting Inactive Plugins: Which One is Better?

Deactivating a plugin will simply turn off its functionality, but the plugin files will still be on your server.

On the other hand, deleting a plugin will completely remove all its files.

In general, it is better to delete inactive plugins rather than just deactivate them, as it can free up space and improve website performance.

However, if you think you might need the plugin again in the future, you can deactivate it and keep it on your server. As long as you keep these to a minimum, your site’s performance and speed shouldn’t be harmed.

Pro tip: Deactivating a plugin is helpful when you’re trying to investigate and troubleshoot an issue on your site. To isolate potential conflicts, webmasters often resolve to deactivating one plugin at a time.

To deactivate a plugin, click on “Deactivate” under the name of the plugin:

Deactivate WordPress plugin

Removing unused WordPress plugins

Removing inactive plugins is a one-step process.

Once the plugin is deactivated, click “Delete” to remove it completely from the directory and server.


Repeat the process for all inactive plugins you no longer need or if you have a long list in the Inactive tab, perform a bulk delete.

How to remove inactive WordPress plugins in bulk

You can deal with unused plugins in bulk using the “Bulk Actions” dropdown menu in your Plugins section. Simply select all the inactive plugins you’d like to remove and hit “Delete.”

Delete plugins in bulk

Pro tip: To make sure you don’t stack unused WordPress plugins, consider downloading Plugin organizer – a free tool that provides fine-grained control over which plugins are loaded on which pages and posts of a website. Observe which plugins are used often to optimize them, and toss the ones that don’t contribute to site performance and speed.

How to uninstall inactive WordPress plugins completely

You might think that hitting the “Delete” button on an unused WordPress plugin is enough to call it quits.

Although this usually uninstalls any files and folders linked to the plugin, sometimes files, tables, and shortcodes may get left behind outside the /wp-content/plugins/ directory. In the long run, this may start taking extra space in your server and harm your site’s performance and speed.

Note: A properly-developed plugin will have an option for a complete uninstall inside its settings. For example, the NitroPack plugin will never work on your website’s original files and instead will make copies. When you decide to uninstall the plugin, there won’t be any leftovers to harm your site’s speed and performance.

Removing leftover files and subfolders

To remove any traces an inactive WordPress plugin might have created, you need access to the files and folders on your WordPress server.

Depending on your host, you can delete unwanted files via File Transfer Protocol (FTP)/ Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) or use a file manager.

Generally, when you first install WordPress, it will create two subfolders in the "wp-content" folder: plugins and themes. As you develop your website and start growing your tech stack, other subfolders will appear, like: cache, upgrade, uploads, updrafts, etc.

WP Content Root Directory

Some plugins will add their dedicated subfolders to the list and these will remain there even after you delete the plugin from your library, like the Shield Security plugin below:

Leftover plugin folder

To delete them permanently, simply right-click on the subfolders and select “Delete.” 

All done!

Removing leftover database tables

Using phpMyAdmin in your hosting admin dashboard, you can control all database tables that WordPress plugins might have created.

There are 12 standard database tables every WordPress site owner begins with:

  • wp_commentmeta
  • wp_comments
  • wp_links
  • wp_options
  • wp_postmeta
  • wp_posts
  • wp_termmeta
  • wp_terms
  • wp_term_relationships
  • wp_term_taxonomy
  • wp_usermeta
  • wp_users

Database default tables wordpress

Extra tables may be created by plugins in your tech stack, like Yoast SEO, Social Snap, WP Forms, etc.

These would usually start with a different prefix than “wp_”, in the example below it’s “icwp_wpsf_.”

To delete a leftover table, right-click on it and choose the “Drop” or “Delete” options (depending on your menu). Confirm your choice, and voilà!

Delete leftover database tables

Removing leftover shortcodes

A lot of the plugins on your WordPress site will use shortcodes (bits of code) to add functionality and features.

You might have seen this before: you go to a contact page, and instead of a contact form, you see the actual shortcode tag displayed.

Contact page shortcode issues

This happens because a plugin for contact forms was deleted but the leftover shortcode was not. To avoid such user experience hiccups, simply edit the pages and remove the code.

To make sure you haven’t missed any orphan shortcodes, consider installing the Shortcodes Finder plugin. This will allow you to automatically find and remove unwanted tags across your website.

Speed up your WordPress site with NitroPack – a lightweight plugin that works on copies of your files only →

Note: The manual solutions above require a more technical approach. If you don’t feel comfortable applying them on your own, you can either turn to a developer or a plugin like Advanced Database Cleaner.

Next steps

After deleting unused WordPress plugins, it’s generally good practice to check for broken links on your website and update them if necessary.

Then, scan if any of your active plugins have an update pending. Additionally, consider flipping through our top picks for WordPress plugins in 2023 for potential hidden gems to optimize your tech stack with.

By following these steps, you can effectively keep your website secure, fast, and efficient.

Lora Raykova
Web Performance Buff

Lora has 7+ years of experience developing in-depth, specialized content for SaaS companies in the CEE region. She has sourced and collaborated with subject-matter experts on site speed optimization for WordPress, Core Web Vitals, and the future of web performance. "If you can't explain it to a 7-year-old, you've not researched it well enough" is Lora's guiding principle when publishing professional insight for complex technical topics.