What is Email Scrubbing? How to Scrub Your Email List in 5 Simple Steps

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Dave Pancham
Dave has spent over 12 years in the industry where he has managed an e-commerce supplement shop for 8 years where they grew from 6 figures in yearly revenue to over 8 figures, managed millions in ad spend on Facebook, and founded a 7-figure fitness franchise marketing agency specializing in paid advertising, lead nurturing, and membership growth coaching which currently has over 100 clients.
Alex Ivanoff
Alex's specialty lies in psychology, paid advertising, funnel building, technology, and finance. He has managed millions of dollars in ad spend on various social platforms, and solved complex problems with thousands of businesses.

Everything valuable in life will probably need maintenance on some level. So does your email list.Yes, your email list isn’t everlasting. Like any other tool, you will have to pay attention to get the most out of it.

While it’s soothing to think that our email audience will stick with us for as long as we are around, most of the time this is not the case.In fact, email lists decline up to 20-30% every single year. You can even experience bounce rate spikes every quarter.

From emails going straight to the promotions tab to subscribers ditching their old emails, the ball is in your court to have a healthy email strategy. This means cutting your losses and working ONLY with active email lists going forward.

Here is where email scrubbing comes in.

In this 8-minute read, you will learn exactly why, when, and how to effectively scrub your email list.

Let’s dive in!

Users chose to join my email newsletters, why remove them?

Scrubbing your email list removes inactive subscribers, it helps you clean things up to make sure your email campaigns are sent to an active audience who can engage with them. Those inactive emails are taking up valuable real estate in your campaign without adding value to your business.

However, the pros of email scrubbing go beyond removing inactive users.

Naturally, you will increase your open, response, and bounce rates without having to do any extra work on your email strategy. In addition, by making sure your list consists of only active and valid email addresses, you will ensure your emails are being sent to the right people who will open them and see what your business has to offer.

Speaking of bounce rate, scrubbing your email list means fewer campaigns being marked as spam. This could also mean fewer complaints about your emails coming in as spam, helping you learn more about the performance of your emails with an all-active subscribers list. But in the instance that your bounce rate does spike, your newly scrubbed list gives you a targeted batch of engaged subscribers that aren’t currently interested in your offer (sounds like a good testing ground to me). 

Now, assuming you scrubbed your email list and your email campaigns are still not performing up to par with your expectations. Email scrubbing gives you the benefit of ruling out “the validity of the email list” as the main reason for your campaign performance. Now you have a clearer understanding of what is working, what isn’t, and what elements to change.

Most importantly, you can save money by scrubbing your email list. Many marketing service providers charge clients based on the number of subscribers in their email list. By reducing your list to only active subscribers, you’re able to cut down the cost of your current marketing service fees. Now you can onboard more users without breaking your email marketing budget.

But wait! Before you cut down 50% of your list. Email scrubbing should ONLY be done when your list needs it. So, when is the best time to start scrubbing your email list?

When is The Best Time to Start Email Scrubbing?

As mentioned before, email scrubbing can be of great benefit to your email marketing campaign, but only when it’s done at the right time.

Of course, you want to see the benefits of a good email scrub. But if your email list doesn’t need it, you won’t see any noticeable difference before and after the scrub. The return on your investment won’t be worth your time.

So, what are the signs to look for when scrubbing your email list?

Number One

A major sign of an unhealthy email list is a sharp drop in your open and click-through rates. 

Apart from regular daily fluctuations or a minor decrease, if you’re noticing your open rates sharply declining and remaining low, it’s a good sign that your emails are being sent to users who are no longer active.

Number Two

A sudden spike in your hard bounces is also a sign that your email list needs a little more of your attention.

Hard bouncing is an indicator of emails being sent to inactive email addresses. Whether an email address isn’t correct, is abandoned, or deleted altogether, a hard bounce is a clear sign that an email address should be removed from your list as soon as possible. This way you make sure they are no longer affecting marketing statistics and you are no longer paying for ineffective emails.

Now that you know when to start scrubbing your email list, it’s time to learn exactly how to do it effectively in simple steps.

How To Scrub Your Email List

How To Properly Scrub Your Email List

Follow this step-by-step guide to start properly scrubbing your email list for more accurate marketing results: 

Step 1: Separate Your Rotten Tomatoes

In your conquest to clean out your email list, you need to divide and separate your list into active and inactive users. If you already have multiple email lists, choose one list to start with. It’s better to pick the one with the least engagement if you want to see the fastest results, but it’s wisest to pick the one with the most engagement if you want to see returns in regards to existing AOV (average order value) or CLTV (customer lifetime value). .

By separating your list into active and inactive users, you reduce your work and direct your efforts toward users that need to be re-engaged or removed. In addition, further down the article, you will see how this step can save you more money throughout the whole scrubbing process.

At this point you may be asking yourself “What’s the activity/engagement benchmark?”

Well, this is entirely up to you to decide. It can differ from business to business. However, for eCommerce brands, it’s tried and proven to segment your list based on the users who have opened your emails in the last 90 days. After this window most common digital consumers aren’t looking to buy the product if they haven’t already. 

This gives you enough time to really make sure those inactive subscribers are truly not responding or opening your emails, instead of removing active users by mistake.

Better safe than sorry right?

Step 2: Verify Inactive Email Addresses

Once you have successfully identified and segmented a list of emails that might need some extra work, you can then use any email verification software to dig deeper into your inactive list.

Email verification software tools offer a lot of valuable features, but you only really need one, which is running your inactive email list and automatically having inactive email addresses removed.

Furthermore, a good email verification/scrubbing software will separate low-quality users from high-value contacts (as in high buying-engagement vs low-engagement users). This can narrow down your focus even more on re-engaging high-value email addresses.

Scrubbing software tools range in features and prices, from paid tools to tools that offer some free features to give you a taste of their service.

Here are three email scrubbing resources we recommend looking into:


Hunter.io is your magic wand to get anyone’s email. It’s an email finder service that has been proven to be the most effective in scrubbing individual emails as well as scrubbing in bulk.

Hunter.io offers 25 free email searches along with 50 email verifications every single month. The next step-up would be the $49 plan which offers 500 email searches with a full 1000 email verifications per month.

It’s an amazing tool that has a lot to offer in terms of email scrubbing. It can help you optimize your outreach efforts with its domain search, email verifier, and email finder tools.


Kickbox is one of the tools that allows you to start your scrub for free. It even provides you with high-value data about the overall health of your email list.

It offers 100 free verifications, which is perfect if you’ve separated your active users already and only want to run your inactive list. After that, it charges $5 for 500 verifications. This way, you can re-engage your high-value customers and save money in the process.

Kickbox price plans

Mailbox Validator

Mailbox Validator offers a free trial for its services. It features a wide list of email integrations to make scrubbing your list much easier. Their “Bulk Trial” offers 100 free verifications, and paid plans start at around $20 a month.

Mailbox Validator price plans

Email List Verify

By far, Email List Verify boasts the most affordable email verification service out of all options. They have in the website headline “Full-Featured Email Verification.

But half the price.”

Email List Verify offers integration with many software products, including MailChimp. Additionally, it offers 100 verifications for free, allowing users to upload their inactive email list and download a clean-slate list once the process is done.

Email List Verify plans start with a reasonable price of just $4 for 1,000 verifications, making it the most cost-friendly option.

EmailListVerify price plans

Step 3: Send a re-engagement campaign

After downloading your verified email list, your next move is to get them back on board with your email newsletters.

There are multiple different ways to go about managing your re-engagement campaign.

First option is to send out a “we miss you” campaign, usually with a small deal or discount to reel them back in. This strategy works like magic, especially with eCommerce brands selling products instead of services.

One of our favorite examples of a re-engagement email is one from Pottery Barn:

Pottery Barn’s re-engagement email example saying “We’ve missed you! 15% off your entire order”

Subject Line: We’ve Missed You! Here’s 15% OFF EVERYTHING – Even Furniture!

This email is really simple, digestible, and straightforward. Your inactive customers won’t read a two-page email about how awesome your brand is. So it’s always better to keep your emails customer-centric.

A study by Salesforce.com shows that 45% of recipients who had received win-back emails read subsequent messages.

If a discount doesn't sound like your type of email, you can always send promotion-free informational emails that add value to your customers and remind them of your brand.

Check out this email from Digiday

Subject Line: Here’s What You’ve Been Missing

 Digiday’s re-engagement email example saying “Here’s what you’ve been missing”

For publishers like Digiday, Valuable content is the main selling point. So why not email your audience some of the amazing headlines you shared since they have been gone?

In this email, Digiday includes a tally of some of the recent news that gives the reader a glimpse at the topics they missed out on.The email is sure on the longer side, but feel free to experiment with shorter or longer emails and see what drives engagement for your eCommerce business.

Not all second chances are created equal, however, re-engagement campaigns are a great last-chance effort to get back some of those users before this next move.

A person touching a screen to give a customer review

Step 4: THE PURGE — Remove inactive users from your list

Once you feel like you have given your re-engagement campaign enough time to sink in with inactive users to pay off and get them back — and this inherently depends on your business model and niche, it’s time to cut the deadweight once and for all.

Analyze your re-engagement campaign and separate those users who have not opened your email. And remove them all with a brave heart and a steady hand.

And remember that you have just cut down unwanted expenses which were dragging down your marketing efforts.

A person flipping two cubes to change “Repair” into “Repeat””

Step 5: Repeat Every 10 to 12 Months

Keeping your email list healthy is crucial to ensure your eCommerce brand is communicating effectively with your audience so make sure you are on the lookout for more tips and proven methods to further optimize your email marketing strategy.

Do you want to further tighten up your marketing strategy and make the best out of your budget? Then your next read should be 3 Actionable PPC Strategies To Instantly Improve Your Ad Campaigns

You can also uncover The 4 Most Effective Marketing channels for your ECommerce Site

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Victoria Petersen
Helping businesses navigate their growth to the upper echelons of eCommerce domination.