Email Scrubbing: How To Really Clean Your Email List

Email Scrubbing: How To Really Clean Your Email List
January 10, 2020 Marketing Sales

So, when did you last worry about email list scrubbing?

If the answer is never, you’re probably wasting time, effort, and money on marketing to people not versed in your business.

Each year, email lists drop by around 22 percent. Up to one-third of your subscribers will never open your emails, much less your call for action. So, what about talking to them?

This is where the scrubbing of emails comes in.

What is scrubbing by e-mail? Email scrubbing removes insecure recipients from your email list so that those who want your emails can only be rented.

This e-mail list cleaning is a key part of your marketing, so at least sometimes a year, you should clean up an e-mail list.

In this article, we’ll discuss why e-mail scrubbing is crucial and provide you with a step-by-step guide.

In our examples, we’ll use MailChimp, but the process is similar for most popular email marketing services.

Email Scrubbing: Warning signs you should look out for

How do you know when your email list cleans? Your email marketing figures usually show the first warning signs.

Through logging into your email marketing app, you’ll see the open and click rate for your campaigns.

Look at what’s happening in recent email campaigns. If there’s a declining open pattern and click rates, then you’ve got a problem.

Next, dig into individual campaigns, look at the rate of unsubscribe and spam complaint.

If you use Mailchimp, click the View Report button next to each campaign to find this. If more people than usual unsubscribe or report your emails as spam, it’s another sign that an email list cleanup is due.

You may also want to look at industry email marketing averages. While each list is different, if your open and click rates are below average, you may need to enhance your email marketing practices. Use our beginner’s digital marketing tutorial to help with that.

Let’s quickly recap. Here’s what you already know how to clean your email list:

  1. Reduced open rate
  2. Reduced click-through rate
  3. More unsubscribes
  4. More spam complaints

All this raises one big red flag. When people don’t open and press, they don’t convert. That means you’re missing leads, sales, and revenue.

Benefits of Email Scrubbing

Email scrubbing can change that. Some email scrubbing benefits are simple math.

You’ll get better open and conversion rates

Rates are calculated as a percentage of the total number of emails sent.

Cleaning your email list means sending emails only to those interested. Even if the same people open your emails as before, they will now be a larger percentage of total emails sent. And that increases percentages of open and click volume.

If the same people open your emails why, would that number make any difference?

Let’s venture into some other benefits

Fewer Spam Complaints

Cleaning the email list also eliminates spam complaints. Some subscribers mark your emails as spam, as they don’t remember signing up, even if they did.

The problem is mailbox providers like Gmail, Yahoo, and others log complaints about spam. If there are too many, send your emails straight to the spam folder, ignoring the inbox.

And they’re going to do that for everybody, not just the people who reported you. Again, this significantly reduces conversions, leads and sales from your email list.

It’s a huge problem for all email marketers. The number of successfully sent emails is increasing globally.

Email scrubbing helps reduce the number of subscribers frustrated enough to mark the emails as spam. Less spam complaints equal a better reputation for sending. That means more emails will reach inboxes of subscribers.

Low Bounce rates

Sometimes emails bounce, meaning they never reach the intended recipient. Sometimes due to full inboxes, changed email addresses, or a technical error.

Too many bounces have the same impact as spam complaints: they damage your email delivery reputation.

If you remove bounced email addresses when you clean your email list, the number and percentage of bounces will drop when you send.

Reduction in costs

Email marketing services often charge the number of emails you send, the number of subscribers you have, or both.

There’s a real financial incentive to keep the email list safe. Each unengaged subscriber on your list costs you money.

Using email scrubbing to delete them, and boost ROI email marketing.

Better Reporting

There’s one more email scrubbing value.

If your email list is filled with unengaged users, it can be hard to tell how your email marketing strategy works. Inactivity and spam comments will distort your numbers.

But if you have a smaller list that’s really interested in your messages, your email marketing statistics will be more accurate. Which ensures you can use that data securely to drive future marketing efforts.

Which email lists to scrub?

One question people ask is which email lists they can clean. Here are some tips:

  • Start with the most active email lists that drive conversions, leads, and sales.
  • Also pay attention to older lists because unengaged subscribers on the list may still count as part of the total.
  • Even if your email list is relatively new, there’s no point in emailing non-interested people.

That’s why the short answer to scrub email lists is: all lists. If you market regularly, you should clean your list regularly, at least a few times a year.

Some preliminary steps before you clean your business email list

We will soon get to our scrubbing guide, but there are a few other things to try before you can start cleaning your email list.

Find out why your emails bounce

As we said, there are many reasons why emails bounce. Email service providers will let you know if bounces are “hard” (meaning there is a permanent error and your emails will never reach that recipient) or “soft,” meaning there is a temporary issue.

For example, you can find this information in MailChimp by clicking the View Report tab to the right of any campaign name.

Download the stats and click Bounced.

If you find email address of potential clients and get confused about email bounces, use find email address and its built-in email finder to eliminate hard bounces as well.

Here’s what you’ll notice in Mailchimp

As you can see, there are both hard and soft bounces present

Here’s why hard bounces occur:

  • The domain name might not exist
  • The email address does not exist
  • The overall email delivery and ISP is backlisted by the email server

MailChimp automatically marks hard bounces as Cleaned, not counted as part of your email limit.

When soft bounces happen regularly, they will become hard bounces.

Some bounces occur due to an email address typo. This can happen when you or subscribers edit your email records.

To fix this in MailChimp, press any bounced subscriber’s name.

Check typos. Some are easy to spot. Common types are:

  • Misspelling mailbox provider name, like writing Gmial instead of Gmail.
  • Adding or omitting letters in a name or company email address.

However, both of these cases can be easily negated before sending your email campaign.

Next, what you want to do is to scroll down to the Subscriber detail option and click the Edit button.

Now, make appropriate corrections and lick the save button to receive the confirmation message.

So basically, the next time you send out an email to your prospect, it’ll reach them in no time.

Use re-engagement strategies for the subscribers

One final thing to do before cleaning your email list. Try to re-engage inactive subscribers with a win-back email campaign. Since they’re signed up, a fresh approach might pique their interest and make them love your emails again.

Identify inactive subscribers in MailChimp. Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: Select a list

Hover over to the Lists option in the dashboard

Tap on the list you want to deal with, then go to “Manage Contacts” » “Segments.” and Select “Create a Segment”.

Step 2: Now set your conditions

Now move over to the Campaign Activity and start setting your first condition

You can choose non-open subscribers such as:

  • All The last 5 campaigns
  • Any of the last 5 prospect campaign
  • All of the recent campaigns

You can set your second condition by using the Add button as well. This allows you to choose people who were sent the following:

  • All The last 5 campaigns
  • Any of the last 5 prospect campaign
  • All of the recent campaigns

Under these conditions, you identify subscribers who sent campaigns but failed to open them

Preview the segments

Save to target inactive subscribers with an email campaign.

A good starting point is why they’re inactive. One of the easiest ways is to ask. For example, with a sad puppy face, this Teespring campaign tugs on heart strings.

Cleanup e-mail list: who can be deleted

Besides hard bounces, there are other email addresses to remove. Don’t worry; in the next step we’ll tell you exactly how.

Look for duplicate email addresses or duplicate names with different email addresses. For Mailchimp list cleaning, an Excel algorithm lets you find and delete duplicates. It works for bounces, too.

For security reasons (and unnecessarily spending money), you should also delete spam email addresses. Usually you can spot these from a strange combination of letter or number.

Remove people who also unsubscribed. Again, you don’t want your email marketing service plan to count those.

And if you’ve ever bought a bad idea email list, remove those subscribers too. They’re not exclusive to you, they haven’t given you permission, so they’re actually doing nothing for the bottom line.

Here is the next step you need to fulfill in order to scrub your email lists in mail chimp.

Step 3: Removing the inactive subscribers

Previewing part. If it’s low, tick the checkbox next to each name to delete.

Tap Actions button, pick Unsubscribe. Confirm when confirmation message appears.

How to manage your newly cleaned list

Having a clean email list is better, but keeping it that way is a smart idea.

You can improve the quality of your new email signups by showing more relevant campaigns to your website visitors. OptinMonster’s page-level targeting is an effective way to do this.

It’s also a good idea to engage some new subscribers with welcome emails, which most subscribers open. Here’s how to write the perfect welcome note, and here are some inspiring email examples.

And you can place subscribers in charge of their email settings, enabling them to opt-out (receive fewer emails) than opt-out when they think they get too many emails.


While there are various business email finder available in the market, many tools offer built in solutions for list cleaning options.

OptinMonster customers used our targeting features to get hundreds of interested prospects email signups and more than double page views on their website.

So, you know why and how to disinfect your email list and use some email scrubbing services. If you’ve enjoyed this tutorial, use our marketing automation guide to get more from your strategy.

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