Email List Cleaning Guide

Email List Cleaning Guide
Article by Bisera StankovskaBisera Stankovska
Last Updated: April 10, 2023

The need for personalized content has led to consistent dependence on email marketing. This makes it indispensable for business growth. This expansive scale leads to an infinite email list. Despite bringing endless benefits to the table, an email list isn't just an asset but can also be a liability.

Besides having a huge email list, it may not produce results. This damages the reputation and wastes money.

When permission based email marketing is a high source of brands’ revenue, email list cleaning is substantial.

Let’s take a look at how it helps.

Receive proposals from top email marketing agencies. It’s free.
Agency description goes here
Agency description goes here
Agency description goes here

What Is Email List Cleaning?

Email cleaning, also known as scrubbing, is the process of constantly cleaning and updating your email lists from fake emails and inactive or disengaged subscribers.

When they are unsubscribing, they are by themselves preferring to opt out of your list.

Email list cleaning increases ROI and reduces the chances of campaigns being marked as spam. This offers a better opportunity to reach and engage with your customers.

Why Do You Need Email Cleaning Services?

It doesn’t make sense for businesses to communicate with an uninterested audience. Hence, the list removes email addresses that haven’t taken action for six months.

Email cleaning services offer endless benefits, such as keeping email KPIs clean and driving more efficiency than the need to sort emails are eliminated manually.

The average email open rate is 17.61%. This rate dropped with an unorganized email list. It affects email marketing deliverability and open and click-through rates.

Email data degrades at a rate of around 22% each year. A clean email service ensures that firms work with reliable and coherent data.

Since it’s impossible to clean an email list, how do you know if you should clean it?

Email lists must be cleaned when spam rates increase and open and click-through rates decrease. Cleaning email lists increase the sender score. It shows that emails aren't marked as spam nor added to the block list.

Why Do You Need to Clean Email Lists?

There are numerous reasons why you should keep your email lists in pristine condition, but eventually, it all boils down to these 5 key reasons: to reduce unsubscription rates and spam complaints, diminish open rates, manage the costs and enhance deliverability.

Limit Un-Subscription Rates

More email addresses paint a picture that the list may include people who are no longer interested in the offering.

Review the engagement, and remove email addresses that might seem uninterested before they hit the unsubscribe button themselves.

Reduce Spam Complaints

Spam complaints can ruin the brand’s reputation with ESPs (Email Service Providers). Constant spam requests can lead the business to be flagged for sending unsolicited emails.

This can hit the deliverability rate considerably.

Reduced Open Rate

If open rates are declining, check for inactive subscribers. However, you must opt for a re-engagement campaign before finally removing an email address.

Subscribers could be inactive due to a lack of interactive emails or email fatigue. Segmentation will offer a refined list of the active users only.

Manage the Cost

Multiple ESPs tiers their pricing model by the number of emails sent. Removing inactive subscribers can keep the costs down. A study suggests that every dollar brand spent earned $36. Hence managing the costs can positively impact cost savings.

This prevents additional payment for inactive users.

Enhance Deliverability

Inactive subscribers and those who have opted out can drastically impact deliverability. Hence, cleaner lists have the potential to reach more users.

How Often Should You Clean Email Lists?

The frequency of cleaning email lists depends on their size and how often new addresses are added. It can be done weekly for an extensive list and once in three months for a smaller one. This concludes with the organization and the size of the list.

Lists can be cleaned monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, or annually. An ideal timeline is to clean it once a year. The number of subscriptions should also be evaluated every quarter.

If the email addresses’ volume is high, firms may review it more often. A high number of bounces can also call for reviews.

How to Clean an Email List?

Organizations may clean their lists in different ways and frequencies:

Here’s how it is usually done:

1. Identify Disengaged Subscribers

Identification is the first phase to gauge disengaged or inactive subscribers. If they are inactive, brands may still win them back.

Identifying disengaged subscribers requires knowledge regarding when the email was last opened. This could be the last three months or a year. Analyzing the engagement on recent marketing campaigns may also help funnel out disengaged users.

Segregate and remove disengaged users from the list so that further emails are not sent to them.

2. Retargeting Inactive Subscribers

Craft a strategy to pique their interest. After a thorough identification, segregate and filter the subscribers. A personalized subject line, discount offers, or other engagement tactics can help brands win their inactive subscribers’ attention.

These incentives could be:

  • A gift or discount/perk
  • Exclusive content/offer
  • Evaluating the content type before sending. Brands may also direct them to their social media channels as a last resort.
  • If the above-mentioned steps don’t work, subscribers may be scrubbed off the list.

3. Highlight Bounce Reasons

The reason for all bounces may not be the same. The reasons can be divided into hard (permanent, like an inactive user) and soft (full inbox) bounce rates.

While hard bounce emails must be removed, brands can still do something about soft bounce rates. This is because soft bounce problems can be resolved in some time.

4. Keep an Eye on Spam Filters

Subscribers that mark emails as spam as soon as they are sent do not benefit the brand as it can negatively impact its deliverability and reputation.

It is better to remove email addresses that mark your emails as spam.

Email List Cleaning - Best Practices

Despite not wanting to reduce the number of emails, email cleaning keeps the list clean and improves the chances of email marketing success. Doing so regularly helps get rid of invalid addresses.

Along with refraining from purchasing lists and not sending emails to catch-alls, it is best to stick with the most promising best practices. Check them out below:

Keeping the List Clean

With a disciplined routine, ensure you stick to making the list clean as always. This can be done by studying campaign metrics and auditing them.

Analyze the data quality and quantity before cleaning the list. This determines the frequency of the cleaning schedule. If subscribers don’t engage with your emails, you should examine why.

Brands should clean their email lists, especially when switching ESP or CRM tools.

Use Double Opt-ins

A double opt-in ensures that subscribers are truly interested in receiving your emails. Once a user submits their information, an email is sent for confirmation.

Here’s how it helps:

  • Gets them accustomed to receiving emails from you
  • Signals that the emails shouldn’t be automatically marked as spam
  • It offers an opportunity to ask users to save their contact, so the emails don’t get lost in the future

Reduce the Bounce Rates

Bounce rates occur due to typos in the email address, if an email doesn’t exist, or other reasons. Managing bounce rates can increase deliverability and ROI.

They are broken down into:

Soft Bounce

A soft bounce is a temporary deliverability problem, such as the server being down or a full inbox.

Resending can help as the emails may eventually go through.

Hard Bounce

A hard bounce is due to permanent deliverability problems such as an invalid email address. Hence removing disengaged email users from the list so that it doesn’t affect the Email Service Providers (ESP).

The ESP tracks the numbers of bounces generated with each use and helps to determine the email’s credibility. Too many hard bounces may lead people to mark your emails as spam.


Automation can work wonders for marketing emails. CRM tools can automatically segregate subscribers based on their history and action.

The above-mentioned retargeting can be exceptionally implemented with an automated CRM tool. Automation can also remove irrelevant subscribers from email campaigns.

Making an email list squeaky clean can consume time, resources, and effort. This includes removing typos, bad email addresses, and duplicates, which makes automation imperative.

Organizations may make big mistakes if email lists aren’t organized before audience outreach campaigns.

Boosted Engagement

A low engagement rate is a primary sign that your email lists need cleaning. However, enhanced engagement requires circulating content that audiences enjoy.

Here are other ways to do it:

  • Offer incentives
  • Include a relevant survey
  • Giveaway
  • Ask them to follow on social media channels

Provide an Opt-out Option

An opt-out option helps subscribers choose emails they want you to receive and how many.

Audiences may even forget to subscribe to the email due to information overwhelm. Opt-out also allows audiences to stay on the list without receiving emails for some time.

You may let them know having noticed inactivity and ask them if they’d like to receive further emails. This gives them more time to think about it.

Make Unsubscribing Easy

Most countries' regulations require businesses to offer a way to unsubscribe.

Hiding the ‘unsubscribe’ button could be frustrating and confusing for audiences. This may even trigger spam complaints and give an unprofessional look to the brand.

Assess the Email Audience

Before sorting the email list, outline the number of email addresses that still align with your ideal target audience.

Retarget each audience group based on demographics, interests, and previous brand relationship. Conversion rates can also be driven up by targeting each group likewise.

CRM tools’ data determines the success of each campaign. Quality of subscribers and actions can drive up the results.

Email List Cleaning – Key Takeaways

Maintaining email list hygiene is essential for businesses to amplify conversion rates, raise ROI, enhance credibility, and build a healthy relationship with audiences.

Some businesses might consider cleaning email lists an additional task, but this is far from the truth.

Consistently cleaning an email list ensures that it isn’t done from scratch every time. When the email list adds up, it can cause more damage. Moreover, errors can be multiplied if shared across sales and marketing teams which extensively hampers productivity.

Professionalemail marketing companies can also help you with this process, so we advise looking for the right agency to partner with for your project.

We’ll find qualified email marketing agencies for your project, for free.
Subscribe to Spotlight Newsletter
Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest industry news