Email Hygiene Tips: Time for a Spring Cleaning

Oh, the joys of springtime

The days are longer, the air is fresher, and there’s a renewed sense of hope in the world. Spring, aka the time when we midwesterners come out of our dark, cold, winter shells with the energy to clean out our closets, attics, and garages. 

For email marketers, it’s not your closet you’re concerned about. It’s your email list. More specifically, the health of that email list. If your engagement rates are stagnant or falling come springtime, you’re not alone. 

Your email list just needs some spring cleaning to breathe new life into it. Here are 5 tips to clean your email list.   

What is email hygiene?

Hygiene definition.

Email hygiene is like personal hygiene, but for your email list. To maintain good personal hygiene, you regularly bathe, brush your teeth, cut your hair, and trim your nails. If you don’t practice good hygiene, your personal reputation is on the line. 

Similarly, if you don’t maintain good email hygiene, your sender reputation is at risk. Your sender reputation is a score assigned based on the quality of your email campaigns, their frequency, size, and recipient's interactions. 

For your emails to make it to people’s inboxes, you need to have a good sender reputation. To have a squeaky clean sender reputation, you need to have good email hygiene. And to have good email hygiene, you need to clean your email list regularly. 

Email list cleaning is the practice of regularly removing inactive, bounced, and other non-engaging email addresses from your email list. Inactive, bounced, and unengaged email addresses are deadweight to your list, and to your business. 

Let’s say you email 10,000 people, and 500 people open it. That’s a 5% open rate. Versus emailing 2,500 people, and 500 people open it. That’s a 20% open rate. And a 300% increase from when you were emailing 4 times as many people (and paying for those people, too).  

Over time, these deadweight emails add up. Continuing to send to outdated, unengaged list tanks not only your email engagement stats, but your sender reputation too. It can even get you blacklisted

A healthy email list = a list of people who want to hear from you, and who regularly open and click through your emails. In this blog post, we’ll give you 5 tips to clean your email list and maintain good email hygiene. 

Remove bounced email addresses 

People misspell their email addresses, switch companies, and disable their inboxes all the time. These are called bounced emails, and they should be removed from your list. There are two types of bounces: hard bounce and soft bounce. 

  • Hard bounces occur due to a non-existent domain, or a misspelled email address. 

  • Soft bounces commonly occur when the intended recipient’s inbox is full, the server was down, or the message was too large for the recipient’s inbox. 

Soft bounces are typically temporary, while hard bounces are permanent failures. 

Continuously attempting to email hard-bounced addresses has a negative impact on your delivery rates, and there’s no reason to pay for email addresses that are no longer in use by the recipient. 

Most email service providers will automatically stop sending to an email address after it fails due to a permanent reason, or hard bounces, two times. Remove any hard-bounced email addresses from your list, no matter the time frame of the bounce. 

It’s like getting rid of the split ends in your hair at the end of a cold, dry winter season. Goodbye, and good riddance.  

Remove people who are unengaged 

We know, this one hurts. You’re thinking the more people you email, the higher chance you’ll get an open, or make a sale. We’re here to tell you… it’s in your best interest to cut the cord. 

ISPs like Gmail and Yahoo use engagement metrics to determine delivery, and if they see a large chunk of your list isn’t opening your emails, it decreases the chance that your emails will be delivered. 

Think about all of the emails you’ve left unopened. It’s not personal, you just don’t have the time to unsubscribe from every single email you’re not interested in anymore. 

A good rule of thumb is if someone hasn’t opened an email from you in three months, it’s time to remove them from your list. You don’t want to give Gmail and Yahoo a reason not to deliver your emails.  

Delete, prune, or deactivate people who haven’t opened an email from you in the last three months. On the plus side, you won’t be paying for people who aren’t engaging with you. That’s more money in your pocket. 

Run a re-engagement campaign 

Ok, but what about people who haven’t opened an email from you in the last month or two? They’re not opening your emails every week, but they’re not past that three-month point yet. 

For these folks, it’s worth one last effort to try to re-engage them. Send people who haven’t opened an email from you in the last one to two months a re-engagement campaign. In your campaign, include: 

  • A detailed description explaining why you’re emailing them and what you’re asking them to do.

  • A clear call-to-action asking them to stay on your list. 

  • Personal copy so they know they are talking to a human.

Framebridge re engagement email.

Source: Really Good Emails

Ask people to confirm their subscription 

To ensure that you have a healthy list full of people who want to hear from you, it’s best practice to ask people to confirm their subscription. Most ESPs and form providers use a tool called double opt-in to confirm email sign-ups. This ensures that people want to hear from you, and it also prevents bots from signing up to your list.

The Honey Pot subscription email.

Your double opt-in email can be short and sweet. Include a clear call-to-action, and let people know what they’re subscribing to. 


Finally, determine how often you’ll clean your list to maintain good email hygiene. The frequency will depend on your list size, industry, and engagement metrics. We recommend six months for most brands. 

Larger lists (10,000+) may need to be cleaned more often to stay healthy. Smaller lists (500-5,00) may be able to get by without cleaning as often, but you should make it an annual part of your spring cleaning routine to maintain good email hygiene and deliverability. 

Review your email engagement metrics to determine how healthy your list is overall, and how often you should clean it. If you see your open rates dropping for several months in a row… it’s time to give it a clean.