How to Send Vanishing Messages on WhatsApp

An illustration of two people holding their phones up in the air with Whatsapp logo and a timer icon in between.

WhatsApp is generally a very secure messaging app that offers end-to-end encryption by default. However, it is less focused on user privacy than messengers like Signal or Wire. Although WhatsApp cannot access your encrypted messages, it collects a lot of metadata (the who, when and where information about your messaging) on you, as well as your contacts and information about your device. WhatsApp shares this information with its parent company Facebook. Facebook then uses this information for commercial purposes and shares it with partners. In the event of data breach, all of this sensitive data could be compromised.

If you choose to stay on WhatsApp despite these risks, the app offers a very reliable and secure messaging platform protected by end-to-end encryption. You can further protect your conversations and the files you share on the app by setting messages to disappear automatically and by sharing photos and videos that vanish as soon as they are seen by the recipient.
Set messages to vanish
You can set messages in an individual chat to disappear after seven days. If you enable this setting, WhatsApp will securely delete chats from your phone and that of the recipient seven days after they are sent. Unfortunately, the seven-day option is the only one that WhatsApp currently provides.

To enable disappearing messages in an individual WhatsApp chat, open the chat and tap the contact’s name. Scroll down and select Disappearing Messages. If prompted, tap Continue to confirm the selection.

Selecting a friend and then scrolling down to find Disappearing Messages under Contact Info in Whatsapp.

Disappearing Messages option under Contact Info in Whatsapp.

Select On. When you enable disappearing messages, you will see a notification in the chat. You will also see a clock icon displayed on the contact’s profile image.

Enabling Disappearing Messages in Whatsapp.

Please note that enabling disappearing messages will not have any effect on messages that were sent before the setting was enabled. It is also worth remembering that disappearing messages will not prevent the person you are chatting with from forwarding your messages or keeping them by taking screenshots or saving media files.

Using “view once” feature

The “view once” feature allows you to set photos and videos to disappear after they are seen. This feature gives you more control over your privacy than when you send media files in a regular way. After the recipient opens the media file, it gets deleted as soon as they navigate away from it. If the recipient does not open the file, it expires and vanishes after two weeks.

You know that a message is a “view once” file when the preview is hidden and a large “1” is displayed instead. “View ones” media files cannot be shared or saved to a device.

To send a “view once” file, open an individual or group chat and tap Attach (a + icon on iPhone or a staple icon on an Android device). Select an existing photo or video on your device. Alternatively, you can tap Camera and take a photo or record a video that will not be saved on your device.

Choosing a photo to send selecting the Photo and Video Library option in Whatsapp.

Tap “1” in the Message field. You will see a notification saying “Photo set to view once”, and the “1” icon in the message field will turn blue.

Number 1 appearing as an indicator in the text box when a photo is set to view once before being sent in Whatsapp.

Tap Send.

How a photo that is set to view once appears with the number 1 appearing next to it in a Whatsapp chat.

You will see an Opened receipt in the chat once the recipient has seen the photo or video.

How a photo that is set to view once appears after viewed in a Whatsapp chat.

Please note that using the “view once” feature does not prevent the recipient from taking a screenshot or screen recording of the media file when it is first opened. So, do not send private, confidential or sensitive photos or videos to someone whom you do not trust fully.