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Smart Pointers in Rust - The Drop Trait

The Drop trait can be implemeted on any type and allows us to customize when a value goes out of scope.

In some languages, we have to manually deallocate the data stored on the heap when we're done using the smart pointer, but with Drop trait this clean up happens automatically when a value goes out of scope.

Running Code on Cleanup with the Drop Trait

struct CustomSmartPointer {
    data: String

// the drop trait is already included in prelude; already in scope
impl Drop for CustomSmartPointer {
    fn drop(&mut self) {
        println!("Dropping CustomSmartPointer with data `{}`!",;

fn main() {
    let c = CustomSmartPointer {
        data: String::from("my stuff"),

    let d = CustomSmartPointer {
        data: String::from("other stuff"),

    println!("CustomSmartPointers created.");

    // variables will be dropped in reverse order of their creation
    // first d then c

Running this produces:

CustomSmartPointers created.
Dropping CustomSmartPointer with data `other stuff`!
Dropping CustomSmartPointer with data `my stuff`!

In most cases customizing this cleanup behavior isn't necessary per say, but in some cases to cleanup value early such as when using smart pointers to manage locks.

We might want to call the drop method to release a lock so other code in the same scope


It's worth noting that the drop() in std is just the empty function. It simply takes ownership of the value and make it go out of scope.

Drop method with std::mem::drop

Rust doesn't allows us to call the drop method directly. For example something like:

fn main() {
    let c = CustomSmartPointer {
        data: String::from("some data"),
    println!("CustomSmartPointer created.");
    println!("CustomSmartPointer dropped before the end of main.");

when calling cargo check from terminal:

error[E0040]: explicit use of destructor method
  --> src/
17 |     c.drop();
   |     --^^^^--
   |     | |
   |     | explicit destructor calls not allowed
   |     help: consider using `drop` function: `drop(c)`

Rust doesn't allow us to call the drop method manually because when our variable goes out of scope, Rust will still automatically call the drop method.

In other to clean up a value early, we can call the drop fucntion provided by Rust standard library and passing the value

// c.drop();