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Deleting Expired WordPress Transients & Post Revisions

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February 24, 2022

WordPress management and WordPress maintenance are important aspects of overall site health. Deleting expired WordPress transients/post revisions is vital!

How to Delete Expired Transients & Post Revisions Using WP-CLI

Backup Early, Backup Often

It's always a good idea to have a recent backup...

Before making any change to the settings for your WordPress site, it's always a good idea to have a recent backupIf your WordPress site or WooCommerce portal is running on one of our managed WordPress hosting plans, you know one aspect of WordPress management that we handle for you is automatic daily backups of your content and data. However, since the most recent daily backup may have been performed hours and hours ago, please create a manual backup using your managed WordPress portal or using the WordPress Command Line Interface (WP-CLI) from inside the terminal.

Using WP-CLI to Perform a Manual Backup

Since we'll be in a terminal session today using WP-CLI already, let's create a quick backup from the command line.

First, after you've opened a Secure Shell (SSH) connection to your server, let's make sure our working directory is the directory of our WordPress installation. In this example, our WordPress site is located in the default site document root, public_html.

[wpclitesting@host ~]$ cd public_html/

[wpclitesting@host public_html]$ ls
Error_log           wp-config-sample.php    wp-login.php

Index.php           wp-config.php           wp-mail.php

Readme.html         wp-content              wp-settings.php

Wp-activate.php     wp-cron.php             wp-signup.php

Wp-admin            wp-includes             wp-trackback.php

wp-blog-header.php  wp-links-opml.php       xmlrpc.php

We can see the WordPress configuration files, so we know we're in the right place.

Next, we'll run a quick backup of our WordPress database:

[wpclitesting@host public_html]$ wp db export ../wp-cli-testing-20220114.sql
Success: Exported to 

WordPress Transients — Why Should We Remove Expired Transients

WordPress intends for transients to be used for short-term caching of data inside the WordPress database. However, WordPress does not automatically delete expired transients. Instead, the creator of an expired WordPress transient (almost always a plugin) is expected to handle that aspect of WordPress maintenance. But some plugins that use transients do not always remove their respective transients after they expire. Over the span of months and years, these expired-but-not-deleted transients living inside the wp_options table of the database can begin to slow things down and impede site performance. For this reason, we should remove expired transients to improve WordPress site performance.

WordPress Transients — A Closer Look

Let's make sure our version of WordPress supports transients.

[wpclitesting@host public_html]$ wp core version

In this example, we're

In this example, we're running with WordPress Version 5.1.6, first released in mid-2020. Because WordPress has supported transients since WordPress Version 2.8, our version is recent enough to have the supported transients included.

Though recent enough to have transients, our version in this example is slightly outdated and should be updated to a more recent version. See our blog post, WordPress Updates: How To Install an Update Safely, for a good guide on updating core WordPress.

And here are the transients in our example WordPress site:

[wpclitesting@host public_html]$ wp transient list


| name                                        | value                                         | expiration |


| jetpack_akismet_key_is_valid                | valid                                         | 1641913553 |

| jetpack_idc_allowed                         | 1                                             | 1641866392 | *

| jetpack_plugin_api_action_links_refresh     | 1641532868                                    | 1641845488 | *

| jetpack_sync_constants_await                | 1641536958.2617                               | 1641913553 |

| jetpack_sync_last_checked_queue_state_sync  | a:2:{i:0;i:0;i:1;i:0;}                        | 1641912144 |

| slimstat_visit_id                           | 1299                                          | false      |  

| update_plugins                              | O:8:"stdClass":1:{s:12:"last_checked";i:0;}   | false      |

| update_themes                               | O:8:"stdClass":1:{s:12:"last_checked";i:0;}   | false      |

| twentyseventeen_categories                  | 2                                             | false      |

| wpcom_social_media_icons_widget::is_active  | 0                                             | 1641835570 | *


As mentioned earlier, WordPress transients are not automatically deleted after expiration, so your list of transients may have more entries than this example list. However, from our example list above, you can see transients with expiration dates (the ones with a number) and ones without expiration dates (the ones labeled 'false').

The expiration value is time in seconds since midnight, January 1, 1970. For example, the transient named jetpack_akismet_key_is_valid has an expiration of 1641913553, which correlates to 2022-Jan-11 09:05:53am.

If you're having caching or performance issues related to a specific transient, you can delete a specific transient by referencing the name:

[wpclitesting@host public_html]$ wp transient delete jetpack_akismet_key_is_valid
Success: Transient deleted.

Rather than remove each expired transient individually by name, we can tell WordPress to delete every expired transient quickly.

[wpclitesting@host public_html]$ wp transient delete --expired
Success: 3 expired transients deleted from the database.

WordPress Post Revisions — Why Should We Remove Post Revisions?

One potential source of WordPress database bloat is post revisions. When you have a post open in the editor, the default setting has WordPress automatically create an auto-save revision every sixty seconds. Though post revisions will not slow down site performance (the WordPress front end only looks at posts of types post and attachment, never revision), it can eat up valuable disk space due to the increased database size.

Here are the posts from our example WordPress installation:

[wpclitesting@host public_html]$  wp post list


| ID  | post_title                              | post_name                            | post_date           | post_status |


| 44  | WP-CLI, Transients, Revisions, and You  | deleting-expired-transients-revisons | 2022-01-06 23:32:49 | publish     |

| 21  | WordPress upgrades using WP-CLI         | wp-cli-upgrade                       | 2020-08-21 20:54:38 | publish     |

| 10  | How To Delete Post Revisions using WP-  | delete-post-revisions-using-wp-cli   | 2019-06-19 09:11:21 | publish     |

| 6   | First post!                             | test-post-1                          | 2019-06-14 12:36:34 | publish     |


And here are the post revisions:

[wpclitesting@host public_html]$  wp post list --post_type='revision'

| ID | post_title | post_name       | post_date           | post_status |  

| 48  | WP-CLI, Transients, Revisions, and You    | deleting-expired-transients-revisons    | 2022-01-06 23:00:54 | publish     |

| 23  | WordPress upgrades using WP-CLI           | wp-cli-upgrade                          | 2020-08-21 20:23:21 | publish     |

| 22  | WordPress upgrades using WP-CLI           | wp-cli-upgrade                          | 2020-08-21 19:36:33 | publish     |

| 20  | How To Delete Post Revisions using WP-CLI | delete-post-revisions-using-wp-cli-revi | 2019-06-29 09:09:24 | publish     |

| 18  | How To Delete Post Revisions using WP-CLI | delete-post-revisions-using-wp-cli-revi | 2019-06-29 09:08:15 | publish     |

| 13  | How To Delete Post Revisions using WP-CLI | delete-post-revisions-using-wp-cli-revi | 2019-06-29 09:07:39 | publish     |

| 14  | How To Delete Post Revisions using WP-CLI | delete-post-revisions-using-wp-cli-revi | 2019-06-29 09:04:34 | publish     |

| 12  | How To Delete Post Revisions using WP-CLI | delete-post-revisions-using-wp-cli-revi | 2019-06-29 09:03:29 | publish     |


Though we could delete the revisions one by one, using the ID, this would become an unwieldy task.

This one-liner comes to the rescue by quickly deleting every past revision for all posts:

[wpclitesting@host public_html]$  wp post delete $(wp post list --post_type='revision' --format=ids) --force

And that’s all there is to it! For older or more active WordPress sites, removing all post revisions can quickly reduce the size of the database by two-thirds.

Further Reading for Performance Tuning WordPress

In addition to the increase in site performance by regular WordPress maintenance of WordPress transients, you can see an increase in site performance by:

You can find answers to your other WordPress questions in our Nexcess Knowledge Base.

Useful WordPress Links for Developers & Admins

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Michael Pruitt
Michael Pruitt

Michael Pruitt is a Support Systems Administrator for Nexcess. He brings over a decade of experience to his current role. When not working, Michael can be found officiating roller derby bouts.

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