1. sql
  2. /references
  3. /delete

DELETE Statement in SQL


In SQL, the DELETE statement is used to delete rows from a table. The basic syntax for deleting rows from a table is as follows:

FROM table_name 
WHERE some_column = some_value;

The WHERE clause is used to specify the conditions that must be met for the rows to be deleted. If you leave out the WHERE clause, all rows in the table will be deleted.


The following statement would delete all rows from the customers table:

FROM customers;

You can also use the DELETE statement to delete rows from multiple tables at once using a single statement, called a "join delete". For example, the following statement would delete rows from the "orders" table where the customer_id in the orders table matches the customer id in the customers table:

DELETE orders 
FROM orders 
INNER JOIN customers 
ON orders.customer_id = customers.id 
WHERE customers.country = 'Germany';

It is important to be cautious when using the DELETE statement, as once data is deleted it can't be recovered. It is always a good idea to create a backup of your data before performing any DELETE operation.

An alternative option is the TRUNCATE command, which is a similar, but instead of removing rows based on a WHERE condition, it will remove all the rows in the table, and reset the auto increment value to the default.

TRUNCATE TABLE table_name;

Another important thing to note is that when you delete rows from a table that is referenced by foreign keys in other tables, you may end up with orphaned rows in the related tables. To prevent this, you can use the ON DELETE CASCADE option when creating the foreign key constraints. This will automatically delete all related rows in the child tables when a row is deleted from the parent table.

You can also use the ON DELETE SET NULL or SET DEFAULT options, which will set the foreign key column in the child table to NULL or to its default value, respectively, when a row is deleted from the parent table.

Additionally, it's important to be careful when using the DELETE statement in a production environment, because if you delete important data accidentally, it can cause serious problems. It's generally a good idea to test your DELETE statement on a small subset of the data before running it on the entire table.

Also, If you want to delete the table itself then you can use the DROP command

DROP TABLE table_name;

This command will delete the table and all the data present inside it.

Best Practices

When it comes to deleting data in a SQL database, there are a few best practices you should keep in mind to ensure that your operations are safe and efficient:

  • Use the WHERE clause to specify exactly which rows you want to delete. Without a WHERE clause, a DELETE statement will remove all rows from the table, which can be a very destructive and hard-to-undo operation.
  • Use TRUNCATE instead of DELETE when you want to delete all the rows from a table and don't need to retain any undo/rollback information. TRUNCATE is faster than DELETE because it doesn't generate any undo logs.
  • Be very careful when deleting data that is referenced by other tables through foreign key constraints. If you delete data from a parent table that is referenced by rows in a child table, you may end up with orphaned records in the child table, which can cause all sorts of problems. If you need to delete data that is referenced by other tables, you should use the ON DELETE CASCADE clause when defining the foreign key constraints, or manually delete the child records before deleting the parent records.
  • Always back up your data before performing any destructive operations such as DELETE or TRUNCATE. This way, if something goes wrong, you can restore your data from the backup.
  • If possible, use a SELECT statement with the same conditions before running a deletion or test the DELETE statement on a small set of data before running the full query, this would help to catch any potential issues that might arise with the actual delete.
  • Audit and log the deletion operation, keeping records of all the delete operations that have been executed on a table along with the time of execution, the user who executed it, etc.
  • If you are dealing with a very large table or a table with a lot of index, it's a best practice to disable the indexes and triggers before deleting. This will improve the performance of your DELETE statement, and you can enable the indexes and triggers back after the delete operation is completed.
  • If you are working on a production environment make sure you are executing the delete operation during a maintenance window, as this will prevent any performance bottlenecks.