Email List Cleaning: 5 Signs Your Email List Needs a Cleaning and How to Take the Next Steps

Raise your hand if your inbox resembles a digital landfill. Mine’s basically a Mount Recyclemore of old newsletters, forgotten pizza coupons, and that email from Mom about Aunt Mable’s surprise Tupperware party (2019, never forget).

But just like we declutter our closets for a new season, sometimes our email needs a good spring cleaning too. Enter the glorious process of email list scrubbing. Think of it like Marie Kondo for your inbox, sparking joy and banishing inbox bloat one unsubscribe button at a time.

Here are 5 signs that you’re due for an email list cleaning

  1. Emails Bouncing Like Beach Balls: Emails are bouncing back faster than a tennis ball at Wimbledon. This means they’re landing in inboxes that don’t exist anymore, dragging your sending score down and making you look like a bad email citizen. Time to clean house!
  2. Crickets in the Inbox: You send out an email, but the only reply you get is the tumbleweed emoji. If your open rates are plummeting, wake up your list with a good scrub and attract some actual readers.
  3. Spam City, Population: You: Your list is more spammy than a free internet cafe. Shady characters are using your email addresses like a playground, and your brand reputation is taking the hit. Time to send those spammers packing with a good list scrub.
  4. Doppelganger Disasters: You’ve got more John Does than a witness protection program. Duplicate addresses are clogging your list and messing up your metrics. De-dupe and declutter for a smoother email flow.
  5. Growing Pains…But Not the Good Kind: Your list keeps growing, but not with engaged readers; You’re attracting ghosts and abandoned accounts. These phantoms drag down your sender score and give you inaccurate data. Time to say goodbye to the email zombies and focus on real, live subscribers.

Remember, a clean list is like a well-organized closet – everything in its place and easy to find. So ditch the email clutter and embrace the joy of a sparkling inbox and thriving campaigns!

Why email list cleaning is so important

List cleaning is key to maintaining good deliverability and making sure your emails land in recipients’ inboxes. List cleaning allows you to accomplish the following:

  • Reduce unsubscribe rates and increase open and click rates
  • Improve your sender reputation with inbox providers
    Most major email service providers (like Google and Yahoo) track how recipients interact with emails from your domain — how many emails are marked as spam, how many are opened, etc. ESPs use this information to determine whether your emails are classified as spam. Having lots of unengaged people on your list hurts your efforts to reach those that actually do want to receive your emails.
  • Retain and engage customers
    By knowing when people start to disengage with your brand, you can know when to send targeted campaigns to re-engage them.
  • Personalize content based on your best customers
    By knowing that your list is full of real, active, and interested potential customers, you can start to personalize content around those people.

Identifying unengaged profiles in your account

Follow the steps below to identify the email addresses you need to say goodbye to. It’s also worth checking Klaviyo’s explanation how to do a proper list cleaning here: Understanding List Cleaning.

Identify your unengaged customers by creating a segment that captures customers who are receiving your emails, but not opening or clicking them.

Let’s look at each of the conditions in this segment.

  • Created at least 90 days ago
    This condition prevents profiles that have been created within the last 90 days from entering your unengaged segment. With this condition, you can be certain the profiles added to the unengaged segment have been in your account for some time without engagement, and new profiles that may have not yet engaged do not fall into your unengaged segment.
  • Received 5 emails over all time
    5 received emails is a good baseline to start with for this condition. However, you can modify this number depending on how often you send to your customers and the type of products you sell. 
  • Opened and clicked email zero times in the last 90 days
    These two conditions capture customers that have not opened or clicked your emails in the last 90 days. By connecting these conditions with an AND connector, you’re finding your least engaged customers. Moreover, we advise using 90 days as your timeframe. If you instead use over all time, this could leave some customers out of this segment who should be suppressed. For example, if you have used Klaviyo for a year, someone could have opened and clicked an email right after subscribing to your emails and then never engage again; they would still not appear as unengaged. The 90 day timeframe accounts for this by including individuals who were unengaged in the last 90 days, without having too restrictive of a timeframe for removing contacts.If you think a 90 day timeframe is not the best window of time to gauge your customers’ engagement, you can also test different timeframes to see what works best for you base

To identify unengaged contacts on a specific list in Klaviyo, add the condition:

  • AND Person is in List Name
list condition

After you’ve created this unengaged segment, the next step is to suppress or delete these profiles from your account.

Suppress or delete unengaged profiles from Klaviyo

Suppressing profiles keeps their data inside of Klaviyo, but no emails may be sent to suppressed profiles. Meanwhile, deleting profiles from Klaviyo removes their data completely. Because of this, it is almost always better to suppress your unengaged profiles. Keep in mind that:

  • Suppressed profiles do not count towards your monthly email payment plan limits.
  • Suppressing profiles maintains all of their associated data in your account.
  • Suppressed profiles can become unsuppressed if they re-engage (e.g., signing up to your newsletter).

Suppress contacts from receiving emails

Once you create a segment of those you want to suppress:

  1. Navigate to the segment in your Klaviyo account. 
  2. Click Manage segment > Export segment to CSV
    Export unengaged segment
  3. Note that the Email property is selected. Do not select any other fields to export. Adding additional fields to your export will slow the upload process down in the next steps. 
  4. Click Start Export.
    export csv
  5. Navigate to Audience > Profiles
  6. Click View suppressed profiles
  7. Click Import
  8. Upload the CSV file you exported from your unengaged segment. 

After uploading, these profiles will remain in your account, but you are unable to email them. 

Delete contacts permanently from your account

If you want to permanently remove a list/segment of contacts from your account:

  1. Click the account name in the bottom-left corner of Klaviyo.
  2. Select Settings.
  3. Select the Other tab.
  4. Click Profile maintenance.
  5. Here, you will see a Remove Profiles section where you can choose a list or segment from a dropdown menu.
    Profile maintenance tab
  6. Select a list or segment and then click Delete People.
  7. A popup will appear prompting you to confirm this decision; if you wish to proceed, click OK.

When you delete people, these profiles will be completely erased and no history will be kept — this is permanent. Be absolutely certain you want to delete these profiles, because this action cannot be reverted.

Bonus Tip: Segment your list like a pro. Group your coffee aficionados separate from the dog biscuit enthusiasts. This way, your emails are laser-targeted and less likely to trigger the dreaded “unsubscribe” button.


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I'm Alli Clough

I’m a web designer, email nerd, and numbers girl. I design and manage online stores for 1m+ brands from a sunny home office. After 18 years in the biz, I’ve tried and tested a lot of tools and strategies, and have the numbers to back up some big decisions you might be hung up on.

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