Using sanitize_file_name for secure uploads in WordPress

The sanitize_file_name function in WordPress is primarily designed to process a filename to ensure it is safe for saving into the file system. Essentially, it removes any potentially problematic characters from the filename. This includes special characters that might cause issues with file systems, such as slashes or spaces, as well as any characters that might have implications for security, such as PHP code tags.

The function is also designed to handle characters from different character sets. It converts these into a standard format that is safe for use in a filename. This can be particularly useful in a multilingual environment where filenames might include non-Latin characters.

By ensuring that filenames are safe and standardised, the sanitize_file_name function can help to prevent errors when files are saved or retrieved, and can also help to maintain the security of the WordPress installation.

Parameters Accepted by the sanitize_file_name Function

The sanitize_file_name function in WordPress accepts a single parameter as follows:

  • $filename (string, required): This is the filename that needs to be sanitized.

Return Value of the sanitize_file_name Function

The sanitize_file_name function returns a string which represents the sanitized filename.


How to sanitize a file name with special characters

The following code snippet sanitizes a file name that may contain special characters or spaces that could potentially cause issues when the file is saved or accessed.

$file_name = "my@file#name.txt";
$sanitized_file_name = sanitize_file_name($file_name);
echo $sanitized_file_name;

How to sanitize a file name before uploading

This code snippet is useful when you want to sanitize the file name of an uploaded file before it is saved on the server. It uses the wp_handle_upload_prefilter filter which is applied before the file is saved.

add_filter('wp_handle_upload_prefilter', 'my_custom_upload_filter' );
function my_custom_upload_filter( $file ){
 $file['name'] = sanitize_file_name($file['name']);
 return $file;

How to sanitize a file name when saving a media file

The following code snippet shows how you can sanitize the file name when a media file is being saved. It is applied on the wp_insert_attachment_data filter which is triggered before the attachment metadata is saved in the database.

add_filter('wp_insert_attachment_data', 'my_custom_insert_attachment', 10, 2);
function my_custom_insert_attachment($data, $postarr) {
 $data['post_name'] = sanitize_file_name($data['post_name']);
 return $data;


The sanitize_file_name function in WordPress is a security feature that ensures the safety of file uploads by cleaning up file names. It removes any special characters, spaces, and accents, which can potentially be used for malicious purposes such as executing harmful scripts or bypassing security measures. By using this function, developers can maintain a secure environment for file uploads in their WordPress applications, thereby protecting both the application and its users from potential security threats.

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