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Strategies for cleaning databases in Ruby. Can be used to ensure a clean state for testing.
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Database Cleaner

Build Status Code Climate

Database Cleaner is a set of gems containing strategies for cleaning your database in Ruby.

The original use case was to ensure a clean state during tests. Each strategy is a small amount of code but is code that is usually needed in any ruby app that is testing with a database.

NB Please note that this README is for the unreleased development version of Database Cleaner. With it, you may find inconsistencies compared to the latest released development version, v1.7.0

Gem Setup

Instead of using the database_cleaner gem directly, each ORM has its own gem. Most projects will only need the database_cleaner-active_record gem:

# Gemfile
group :test do
  gem 'database_cleaner-active_record'

If you are using multiple ORMs, just load multiple gems:

# Gemfile
group :test do
  gem 'database_cleaner-active_record'
  gem 'database_cleaner-redis'

List of adapters

Here is an overview of the databases and ORMs supported by each adapter:

MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite, etc





More details on available configuration options can be found in the README for the specific adapter gem that you're using.

For support or to discuss development please use the Google Group.

How to use

require 'database_cleaner/active_record'

DatabaseCleaner.strategy = :truncation

# then, whenever you need to clean the DB

With the :truncation strategy you can also pass in options, for example:

DatabaseCleaner.strategy = :truncation, {:only => %w[widgets dogs some_other_table]}
DatabaseCleaner.strategy = :truncation, {:except => %w[widgets]}

(I should point out the truncation strategy will never truncate your schema_migrations table.)

Some strategies need to be started before tests are run (for example the :transaction strategy needs to know to open up a transaction). This can be accomplished by calling DatabaseCleaner.start at the beginning of the run, or by running the tests inside a block to So you would have:

require 'database_cleaner/active_record'

DatabaseCleaner.strategy = :transaction

DatabaseCleaner.start # usually this is called in setup of a test


DatabaseCleaner.clean # cleanup of the test

# OR do

At times you may want to do a single clean with one strategy.

For example, you may want to start the process by truncating all the tables, but then use the faster transaction strategy the remaining time. To accomplish this you can say:

require 'database_cleaner/active_record'

DatabaseCleaner.clean_with :truncation

DatabaseCleaner.strategy = :transaction

# then make the DatabaseCleaner.start and DatabaseCleaner.clean calls appropriately

What strategy is fastest?

For the SQL libraries the fastest option will be to use :transaction as transactions are simply rolled back. If you can use this strategy you should. However, if you wind up needing to use multiple database connections in your tests (i.e. your tests run in a different process than your application) then using this strategy becomes a bit more difficult. You can get around the problem a number of ways.

One common approach is to force all processes to use the same database connection (common ActiveRecord hack) however this approach has been reported to result in non-deterministic failures.

Another approach is to have the transactions rolled back in the application's process and relax the isolation level of the database (so the tests can read the uncommitted transactions).

An easier, but slower, solution is to use the :truncation or :deletion strategy.

So what is fastest out of :deletion and :truncation? Well, it depends on your table structure and what percentage of tables you populate in an average test. The reasoning is out of the scope of this README but here is a good SO answer on this topic for Postgres.

Some people report much faster speeds with :deletion while others say :truncation is faster for them. The best approach therefore is it try all options on your test suite and see what is faster.

If you are using ActiveRecord then take a look at the additional options available for :truncation.

Database Cleaner also includes a null strategy (that does no cleaning at all) which can be used with any ORM library. You can also explicitly use it by setting your strategy to nil.

Test Framework Examples

RSpec Example

RSpec.configure do |config|

  config.before(:suite) do
    DatabaseCleaner.strategy = :transaction

  config.around(:each) do |example| do


RSpec with Capybara Example

You'll typically discover a feature spec is incorrectly using transaction instead of truncation strategy when the data created in the spec is not visible in the app-under-test.

A frequently occurring example of this is when, after creating a user in a spec, the spec mysteriously fails to login with the user. This happens because the user is created inside of an uncommitted transaction on one database connection, while the login attempt is made using a separate database connection. This separate database connection cannot access the uncommitted user data created over the first database connection due to transaction isolation.

For feature specs using a Capybara driver for an external JavaScript-capable browser (in practice this is all drivers except :rack_test), the Rack app under test and the specs do not share a database connection.

When a spec and app-under-test do not share a database connection, you'll likely need to use the truncation strategy instead of the transaction strategy.

See the suggested config below to temporarily enable truncation strategy for affected feature specs only. This config continues to use transaction strategy for all other specs.

It's also recommended to use append_after to ensure DatabaseCleaner.clean runs after the after-test cleanup capybara/rspec installs.

require 'capybara/rspec'


RSpec.configure do |config|

  config.use_transactional_fixtures = false

  config.before(:suite) do
    if config.use_transactional_fixtures?
        Delete line `config.use_transactional_fixtures = true` from rails_helper.rb
        (or set it to false) to prevent uncommitted transactions being used in
        JavaScript-dependent specs.

        During testing, the app-under-test that the browser driver connects to
        uses a different database connection to the database connection used by
        the spec. The app's database connection would not be able to access
        uncommitted transaction data setup over the spec's database connection.

  config.before(:each) do
    DatabaseCleaner.strategy = :transaction

  config.before(:each, type: :feature) do
    # :rack_test driver's Rack app under test shares database connection
    # with the specs, so continue to use transaction strategy for speed.
    driver_shares_db_connection_with_specs = Capybara.current_driver == :rack_test

    unless driver_shares_db_connection_with_specs
      # Driver is probably for an external browser with an app
      # under test that does *not* share a database connection with the
      # specs, so use truncation strategy.
      DatabaseCleaner.strategy = :truncation

  config.before(:each) do

  config.append_after(:each) do


Minitest Example

DatabaseCleaner.strategy = :transaction

class Minitest::Spec
  before :each do

  after :each do

# with the minitest-around gem, this may be used instead:
class Minitest::Spec
  around do |tests|

Cucumber Example

If you're using Cucumber with Rails, just use the generator that ships with cucumber-rails, and that will create all the code you need to integrate DatabaseCleaner into your Rails project.

Otherwise, to add DatabaseCleaner to your project by hand, create a file features/support/database_cleaner.rb that looks like this:

require 'database_cleaner/active_record'

DatabaseCleaner.strategy = :truncation

Around do |scenario, block|

This should cover the basics of tear down between scenarios and keeping your database clean.

For more examples see the section "Why?".

How to use with multiple ORMs

Sometimes you need to use multiple ORMs in your application.

You can use DatabaseCleaner to clean multiple ORMs, and multiple connections for those ORMs.

require 'database_cleaner/active_record'
require 'database_cleaner/mongo_mapper'

# How to specify particular orms
DatabaseCleaner[:active_record].strategy = :transaction
DatabaseCleaner[:mongo_mapper].strategy = :truncation

# How to specify particular connections
DatabaseCleaner[:active_record, { :connection => :two }]

# You may also pass in the model directly:
DatabaseCleaner[:active_record, { :model => ModelWithDifferentConnection }]

Usage beyond that remains the same with DatabaseCleaner.start calling any setup on the different configured connections, and DatabaseCleaner.clean executing afterwards.


One of my motivations for writing this library was to have an easy way to turn on what Rails calls "transactional_fixtures" in my non-rails ActiveRecord projects.

After copying and pasting code to do this several times I decided to package it up as a gem and save everyone a bit of time.

Common Errors

DatabaseCleaner is trying to use the wrong ORM

DatabaseCleaner has a deprecated autodetect mechanism where if you do not explicitly define your ORM it will use the first ORM it can detect that is loaded.

Since ActiveRecord is the most common ORM used that is the first one checked for.

Sometimes other libraries (e.g. ActiveAdmin) will load other ORMs (e.g. ActiveRecord) even though you are using a different ORM. This will result in DatabaseCleaner trying to use the wrong ORM (e.g. ActiveRecord) unless you explicitly require the correct adapter gem:

# Gemfile
gem "database_cleaner-mongoid"

STDERR is being flooded when using Postgres

If you are using Postgres and have foreign key constraints, the truncation strategy will cause a lot of extra noise to appear on STDERR (in the form of "NOTICE truncate cascades" messages).

To silence these warnings set the following log level in your postgresql.conf file:

client_min_messages = warning

For ActiveRecord, you add the following parameter in your database.yml file:

  adapter: postgresql
  # ...
  min_messages: WARNING


DatabaseCleaner comes with safeguards against:

  • Running in production (checking for ENV, RACK_ENV, and RAILS_ENV)
  • Running against a remote database (checking for a DATABASE_URL that does not include localhost, .local or

Both safeguards can be disabled separately as follows.

Using environment variables:


In Ruby:

DatabaseCleaner.allow_production = true
DatabaseCleaner.allow_remote_database_url = true

In Ruby, a URL whitelist can be specified. When specified, DatabaseCleaner will only allow DATABASE_URL to be equal to one of the values specified in the url whitelist like so:

DatabaseCleaner.url_whitelist = ['postgres://postgres@localhost', 'postgres://foo@bar']


See [LICENSE] for details.

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