How to purge Nginx Proxy Cache in Linux CentOS A list of useful methods provided by Nginx when used as a Reverse Proxy with caching features to selectively and/or globally invalidate its cache

How to purge Nginx Proxy Cache in Linux CentOS

We already made a number of tutorials about Nginx, one of best web servers available for Linux - which can also be used as a reverse proxy, load balancer and HTTP cache: in case you missed them, you can get a comprehensive list by clicking here.

In this post we'll talk about the awesome ngx_cache_purge module by FRiCKLE, which is an excellent way to manage the Nginx cache folder(s) when we use it as a Reverse Proxy with caching features. The module works with all supported proxy types - including FastCGI, Proxy-Cache, SCGI and uWSGI. Unfortunately, the module is not shipped with the vanilla Nginx build which we could install on your CentOS machine by typing the sudo yum install nginx  command: in order to use that, we need to install a custom Nginx build package (called error/nginx)  from an external repo, which is also not included in the default yum repository database.

Add the error/nginx repository

The first thing we need to do is to create a new .repo file that will host the custom repository from where we'll fetch & install the modded version of Nginx. Navigate to the /etc/yum.repos.d/  folder and then create a new file - for example, error-nginx.repo - and fill it with the following content:

Once done, you can proceed with your sudo yum install nginx  command or even update your current installation by typing sudo yum update nginx .

How to delete the cache

Nginx built with the ngx_cache_purge module supports various alternative method for selectively and/or globally deleting the cache. Some of them require to be configured within the /etc/nginx/nginx.conf file, while others can be used by directly accessing the machine via SSH:

  • Delete the entire cache folder
  • Refresh items with the BYPASS Method
  • Erase items with the PURGE Method
  • Erase items with the /purge URL Method

Let's see each one of them in details.

Delete the entire cache folder

Nginx proxy cache is stored in a folder structure defined in our nginx.conf file - the /var/cache/nginx  folder, if you used our nginx.conf configuration sample - which we can selectively delete specific items from or delete everything to empty the entire cache.

Here's the terminal command to empty the entire cache:

Delete specific items is a bit more complicated, because we should create an md5 hash of the full URL we want to purge and then delete the specific folder and subfolder recursively in the proxy_cache_path  folder. It's worth noting that most WordPress plugins that deal with Nginx cache can do that automatically, hence - if you use WordPress - we strongly suggest to use one of them.

The BYPASS Method

The BYPASS Method is definitely the best way to invalidate and refresh the Nginx reverse proxy cache. with proxy_cache_bypass  we can force Nginx to fetch a new version of the URL from the web server and replace the old outdated version with the new fresh version. If you used our nginx.conf configuration sample, the proxy_cache_bypass  feature is already implemented; if you need to implement it from scratch, you have to add the following settings to the server block within your nginx.conf file:

... and then the following within the main location block:

As we can see, we enabled the secret header for incoming requests from the web server and reverse proxy so we can test using the secret header with cURL from those servers.

Here's the terminal command to force a BYPASS:

If we do that from the same server that runs Nginx, we should see the following response output, showing BYPASS in the X-Cache header:

If you try to do that from any other server, we should just see a X-Cache: HIT  response. Needless to say, we can add other IP addresses to the above IF condition within the server block to authorize the BYPASS method from additional trusted IP addresses.

The PURGE Method

To enable the PURGE method we have to add the following configuration settings within the location block of our nginx.conf file:

You can white-list one or more IP addresses/masks by separating them with a single space.

Once done, we can issue a PURGE request using this terminal command:

If the request comes from an authorized IP ( in the above example), the proxy_cache_purge module will automatically translate the request into the md5 hash of the URL and delete the item from the proxy_cache_path folder specified in the nginx reverse proxy virtual host. If the file is found, we will get a 200 response meaning that the PURGE was successfully done:

If Nginx does not have that specific URL cached, we will get a standard HTTP 404 - Not Found error; also, if the request comes from a non-whitelisted IP address, the caller will receive a HTTP 403 - Forbidden error.

The /purge URL Method

This method uses a specific URL to call the same proxy_cache_purge method we introduced above: again, to make it work, we need to add the following settings within our nginx.conf configuration file's server block:

Be sure to replace edge-cache  with the keys_zone  specified in the proxy_cache_path  configuration setting.

The allow cfg option here is very important: just like we did with the PURGE method above, it will limit access to the /purge location to the white-listed IP address(es), preventing potential attackers from being able to purge our Nginx cache. Additional allow rules can be added (one per line) to white-list multiple IP addresses.

Once done, we can purge via URL with the following cURL comand:

If the IP address is present in the allow  list and the home page was cached by Nginx reverse proxy we will see the following result:

Again, if Nginx does not have that specific URL cached we will get a standard HTTP 404 - Not Found error; if the request comes from a non-whitelisted IP address, the caller will receive a HTTP 403 - Forbidden error.


That's it for now: if you have other suggestions, feel free to add them to the comments section below!

This post is part of a series of articles, tutorials and guides on the NGINX web server & reverse proxy. To read the other posts, click here!




About Ryan

IT Project Manager, Web Interface Architect and Lead Developer for many high-traffic web sites & services hosted in Italy and Europe. Since 2010 it's also a lead designer for many App and games for Android, iOS and Windows Phone mobile devices for a number of italian companies. Microsoft MVP for Development Technologies since 2018.

View all posts by Ryan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.