Bash alias for cleaning git branches

bash, tips

Tired of hunting for stale git branches? #

Git branches Photo by Yancy Min on Unsplash

As a git user, I got tired of constantly seeing my list of branches grow out of control. Git is great for keeping the history of a repository, but at least for me, there isn’t a lot of value in keeping deleted branches in my local history. Besides, if you are using short-lived feature branches (and you really should be), you will be creating and deleting several new branches per week.

Because of this, I decided to create an alias to remove old branches from my local machine. My criteria was:

  1. Only branches which have been merged to master should be deleted
  2. My local list of remote branches should be cleaned up, to remove non-existing branches

With that criteria in mind, I came up with the following steps:

The solution #

First, return a list of all local branches which have already been merged to master. Crucially, this does not include any branches with commits different from master:

git branch --merged master

This list also includes the local master branch, as well as the currently checked out branch (denoted by a *). This grep removes that:

grep -v -e 'master' -e '\*'

Finally, delete all remaining results. The lowercase -d flag also ensures only fully merged branches get deleted (as opposed to the delete all -D):

xargs -n 1 git branch -d

Afterwards, do a prune of the local copy of remote, to remove any references to non-existing remote branches:

git remote prune origin

Putting it all together, I ended up with this alias, which I then added to my .bashrc file:

The TL;DR #


alias git-clean-branches="git branch --merged master | grep -v -e 'master' -e '\*' | xargs -n 1 git branch -d && git remote prune origin || echo 'No local branches to remove, so nothing done.'"

Now, my clean-up ritual after completing a pull request is always the following:

gcm # this is an alias for "git checkout master"
git pull # grab the latest master
git-clean-branches # clean up all merged local branches and prune my local list of remote branches

Automate all the things!