How to Delete Iptables Rule?


As a network administrator or system administrator, you will likely come across iptables at some point in your career. Iptables is a firewall and an essential part of Linux kernel-based operating systems. It acts as a packet filter by monitoring incoming and outgoing network traffic to and from your system.

Iptables rules are used to determine how packets should be filtered, forwarded, or blocked based on their source, destination, ports, protocols, and other parameters. Knowing how to delete iptables rules is an important skill for any Linux system administrator because it allows you to modify the firewall settings when changes are needed.

Understanding Iptables Rules

Iptables is a powerful tool for managing network traffic on Linux systems. At its core, iptables works by analyzing incoming and outgoing packets of data and deciding what to do with them based on pre-defined rules.

These rules are used to set policies that control how traffic is allowed or blocked from reaching the network. Understanding iptables rules is essential for ensuring that your system's firewall is configured correctly.

Explanation of what iptables rules are and how they work

Iptables rules are composed of a set of criteria that determine how incoming and outgoing traffic is handled by the firewall. Each rule specifies which types of packets should be allowed or denied, based on various criteria such as the source IP address, destination IP address, port number, protocol, and more.

When a packet arrives at the system’s network interface card (NIC), it passes through a chain in the iptables framework where it gets compared against each rule in turn until a match is found. If no match occurs for a particular packet, then it will be dealt with according to the default policy for that particular chain.

Overview of different types of iptables rules (e.g. INPUT, OUTPUT, FORWARD)

There are three main chains in an iptable rule set: INPUT chain deals with incoming traffic to your system; OUTPUT chain deals with outgoing traffic from your system; FORWARD chain deals with forwarding packets between two networks (e.g., when your Linux machine acts as a router). In addition to these primary three chains, there are also PREROUTING and POSTROUTING chains which can be used to modify incoming or outgoing packets before they get processed by other chains.

Discussion on how to view existing iptables rules

It's important to be able to view your current iptables rules in order to understand how traffic is currently being handled by the firewall. One way to do this is by running the command −

iptables -L 

This will show you a list of all the chains in your current iptables configuration, along with any rules that have been defined for each chain.

You can also use options like ```-v``` or ```--line-numbers``` to get more detailed information about each rule, such as which interface it applies to or which protocol it uses. Another useful command for viewing iptables rules is iptables-save.


This will print out the entire configuration in a format that can be easily edited or backed up for future reference. You can also pipe this output into a file or another command if you want to manipulate it further.

Identifying the Rule to Delete

In order to delete an iptables rule, it's important to first identify the specific rule that needs to be deleted. This can sometimes be a bit tricky, as iptables rules can be complex and difficult to read, especially for those who are not familiar with them.

However, there are a few key things you can do to make this process easier. One approach is to use the iptables command line interface (CLI) utility to list all of the existing rules on your system.

Common Reasons for Deleting an Iptables Rule

There are many different reasons why someone might need or want to delete an iptables rule. One common reason is simply that the rule is no longer needed. Maybe it was put in place for testing purposes, or maybe it was part of a temporary fix for a network issue that has since been resolved.

Another common reason for deleting an iptables rule is because it was configured incorrectly in the first place. Perhaps someone made a mistake when entering the details of the rule, or maybe something changed on the network and the old configuration no longer applies.

Deleting an Iptables Rule

Now that we have a basic understanding of iptables rules and how to identify the rule that needs to be deleted, let's dive into the process of actually deleting an iptables rule using the command line interface. Follow these step-by-step instructions to delete an iptables rule:

  • Open up a terminal window and log in as root or use sudo before each command.

  • To view all existing rules, issue the following command: `iptables -L`

  • Identify the specific rule you wish to delete and take note of its line number.

  • To delete a rule based on its line number, type: `iptables -D [chain] [line number]`

  • If you don’t know which chain contains your target rule, you can execute `iptables-save > /tmp/out.txt` then open out.txt with your favorite editor (nano, vim) and search for your failed IP address or port number.

It’s important to note that removing an iptables rule doesn’t modify any permanent configuration files, so it will only affect the current running instance of iptables. In order to make this change persistent across reboots, consider saving your changes with `sudo apt install iptables-persistent` if you're using Ubuntu/Debian.

Best Practices for Managing Iptables Rules

Tips for managing and organizing iptables rules effectively

When it comes to managing iptables rules, organization is key. As a network administrator, it's essential to know which rules are in place and what purpose they serve. To manage your iptables rules more effectively, consider the following tips −

  • Use descriptive comments: When you create a new rule, be sure to include a comment that describes what the rule does. This will make it easier for you (or someone else) to understand why the rule exists later on.

  • Group similar rules together: If you have multiple rules that serve a similar purpose (e.g. allowing traffic from a specific IP address), group them together so they're easier to manage.

  • Regularly review your rules: Even if you have good organization in place, it's still important to regularly review your iptables rules to ensure they're still necessary and working as intended.

Discussion on backup strategies in case a mistake is made during deletion

While deleting an iptables rule is fairly straightforward, mistakes can happen – and those mistakes can potentially cause significant issues with network traffic. To avoid these problems, it's important to have backup strategies in place so that you can quickly restore your previous configuration if needed. One useful strategy is to regularly create backups of your current iptables configuration file (usually located at /etc/sysconfig/iptables).


In this article, we have explored what iptables rules are and how to delete them. We started by discussing the importance of understanding how to manage iptables rules and how they work.

We then explained the different types of iptables rules and how to view existing ones. Next, we covered the steps involved in identifying the specific rule that needs to be deleted and deleting it using the command line interface.

We provided tips for managing and organizing iptables rules effectively. It is crucial for network administrators or anyone managing a network to know how to manage iptables rules effectively.

Updated on: 07-Jun-2023

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