What Does Cleaned Mean in Mailchimp? You Might Be Surprised

Notice a tag that says ‘cleaned’ pop up next to your contacts in Mailchimp? Great, you think. That’s another contact that checks out clean. I must be right on top of my list hygiene.

Except in Mailchimp, ‘cleaned’ doesn’t mean what you might think it means. Yes, it’s to do with list hygiene and protecting your sender reputation. But having a contact tagged as ‘cleaned’ in Mailchimp isn’t necessarily a good thing.

In this article, I’ll explain to you exactly what Mailchimp means by a ‘cleaned’ contact. I’ll also explain why it’s best to avoid having any contacts ‘cleaned’. And then show you how to do it.

What Does Cleaned Mean in Mailchimp?

In Mailchimp, a ‘cleaned’ contact can no longer receive emails from you. As in, it has been ‘cleaned’ from your list.

This happens when an email bounces. A bounce is when a sent email doesn’t arrive in a contact’s inbox. There are 2 types of bounce:

Hard bounce

A hard bounce means there is a permanent block on emails landing in an inbox. Common reasons for hard bounces include:

  • Incorrect email addresses
  • Fake email addresses
  • Issues with the email domain
  • Email server security settings rejecting certain types of mail.

Mailchimp cleans an email address from your list at the first hard bounce.

Soft bounce

A soft bounce is a temporary delivery fault. Common causes of soft bounces include:

  • A full inbox
  • An email server is down
  • An email is over the file size limit.

Mailchimp will only clean an email address from your list after multiple soft bounces.

Note that Cleaned in Mailchimp is different to Unsubscribed. Unsubscribed contacts are those who choose to no longer receive emails from you. Mailchimp will also not send to unsubscribed email addresses. But the difference matters when it comes to list hygiene and verification. Email verification services like Bouncer can help you with cleaned contacts.

What Happens to Cleaned Contacts?

On the face of it, Mailchimp’s cleaning tool is a good thing. It’s important to keep bounce rates down. The anti-spam bots and filters that protect email accounts take note of high bounce rates. It’s a sign that someone is sending unsolicited or possibly fraudulent emails.

In short. If you don’t control your bounce rates, your sender reputation will take a hit. And then you’ll find it harder to land emails in people’s inboxes.

So Mailchimp is doing you a favour. If you get a hard bounce from any email address, you need to remove it from your list. Even if it’s a typo and you can’t add a corrected email address, they have to sign up again. If you get several soft bounces, it’s a sign that an email account is no longer used. You need to remove it from your list for the same reason. Mailchimp does the job for you.

But there is a drawback to Mailchimp’s approach. Strictly speaking, Mailchimp doesn’t remove a cleaned email address from your lists. You can’t send to it anymore, sure. But the contact remains on the list. You can see it there, with the ‘cleaned’ tag next to it.

The issue is, Mailchimp bases its pricing on how many contacts you have. And that’s all contacts – even those you can’t send to. The same email address even counts as more than one contact for pricing purposes if it’s in more than one list. So with a cleaned contact, you might be paying more than once for an address you can’t even send to. This is one of the reasons why many marketers, switch to Mailchimp alternatives.

That’s not ideal for anyone paying for an email marketing service. The answer? If you use Mailchimp, clean your contact lists before Mailchimp does.

How to Clean Your Email List Automatically

The best way to keep your email list clean is to use an email verification tool. That’s a good rule to follow in all situations. But if you use Mailchimp, it’s even smarter advice. Using an email verification tool can prevent any of your contacts from being ‘cleaned’ by Mailchimp.

So which email list cleaning service to choose? Read our guide with the best email list cleaning services to learn more about the options available.

But in this case, the best option is a list cleaner that integrates directly with Mailchimp. And for that, you can’t beat Bouncer. Learn more about its features, pricing, pros, and cons in our full Bouncer review

Bouncer is a great email verification service full stop. It’s easy to use and you can even start checking your lists for free. It’s accurate and covers all the main reasons why email addresses in your list might be suspect.

Plugged into Mailchimp, it automatically scans your contact lists and highlights any that are likely to bounce. That way, you can remove them before Mailchimp flags them as cleaned. You protect your sender reputation. And only pay for contacts you can actually send to.

Once you have a Bouncer account, here’s how to set up the Mailchimp integration.

Try Bouncer for free here

1. Connect your Bouncer account to Mailchimp

adding an email marketing integration to Bouncer.

In the main Bouncer menu, select Verify List. Then click Add new integration. Choose Mailchimp Import and then Connect with Login.

connecting a Mailchimp account to Bouncer

This takes you to a custom Mailchimp login screen. Input your Mailchimp account details.

authorizing Mailchimp data cleansing in Bouncer

Once you are logged in, you will be asked to authorize the connection between Mailchimp and Bouncer. This is a standard disclaimer from the Mailchimp side. Click Allow and then Verify List again. Your Bouncer and Mailchimp accounts are now connected.

2. Choose the list you want to verify

Once your accounts are connected, you are taken back to Bouncer. You’ll see a pop-up screen showing your Mailchimp mailing lists. 

adding contacts in Mailchimp to verify in Bouncer

Choose the list you want to verify and click Load. Be aware that the maximum list size Bouncer will check is 10,000 email addresses.

3. Clean your list

Bouncer cleaned contacts preview and bounce estimate

As soon as you load your list, Bouncer will automatically check your list. The results will tell you 3 things:

  • If you have any invalid email addresses in your list. These will cause a hard bounce.
  • If you have any duplicate contacts. Remember, in Mailchimp you will be paying for duplicates twice.
  • A ‘Bounce Estimate’, or the percentage of addresses Bouncer thinks will cause a bounce. These are for reasons other than an invalid address format.

For Mailchimp purposes, it’s the Bounce Estimate that’s most important. Any email in your list at risk of bouncing is at risk of being cleaned by Mailchimp. So this is your chance to act first.

First, you need Bouncer to analyse the reasons for these bounces. The reason why will become clear shortly. To do this, click Start Now. 

Note that Bouncer tells you how many credits this analysis costs. It’s one credit per email address. You get 100 credits to use on a free Bouncer account. So if you have more than 100 Mailchimp contacts, you will need to upgrade to a paid Bouncer account.

The results look like this:

Bouncer list hygiene and cleaned contacts analysis

The green ‘deliverable’ addresses are ok. Red ‘undeliverable’ means you will get a hard bounce sending to those addresses. Orange ‘risky’ means there’s a risk of getting a hard or a soft bounce. And unknown means Bouncer wasn’t able to verify. So you’re taking another risk sending to them.

4. Export your list back to Mailchimp

Bouncer doesn’t remove email addresses from your list. Instead, it tags them using the deliverability statuses explained above. Then you can choose how you handle them.

First, you have to export your list with the new tags back to Mailchimp. On the same page with the list analysis results, click Export. You’ll see the button also has the Mailchimp monkey logo on it. That means it exports directly to your linked Mailchimp account.

exporting an email marketing list from Bouncer to Mailchimp

The next page gives you 4 export options. ‘All’ exports your entire list, with the new tags for every address. Safe to Send will only export addresses tagged as deliverable. Send with Caution will export all addresses except those tagged undeliverable. You can also create a custom selection, such as Deliverable plus Unknown.

export cleaned contacts options in Bouncer

If you want to remove suspect emails from your list full stop, choose Safe to Send. You can still avoid Mailchimp cleaning even if you send the full list back. You can use the new tags to segment out any suspect addresses. If you don’t send to them, you won’t get bounces. So Mailchimp won’t act.

But, with the Safe to Send option, you won’t be paying for contacts you’re not sending to anyway. So it makes more sense. Note that Bouncer still shows a low bounce estimate. That’s just Bouncer playing it safe. There are still soft bounce risks even from apparently ‘healthy’ accounts. When you’ve made your choice, hit Export again.

Try Bouncer for free here

5. Segment your list in Mailchimp

Now you’re ready to use your list in Mailchimp again. Remember, Bouncer doesn’t remove any email addresses. It just tags them. Even if you chose the Safe to Send export option, the risky emails are still in your Mailchimp list. But you can use the tags to make sure you’re not sending to them.

To do this, you need to turn the tags into a segment. Segments are in effect lists within a list. You can choose to send to just a segment of a list, rather than the whole thing. And you can create segments from tags.

Click the Audience drop-down in the main Mailchimp menu. Select Segments and then click Create Segment.

creating a segment in Mailchimp for email marketing campaigns

Next, give your segment a name and click Add Filter. Choose Tags.

Mailchimp segment builder

Choose the tag you want to create a segment out of. It’s up to you if you want to add other filters to narrow down the segment further. But if you just want to send to addresses verified by Bouncer, just the tag works fine.

creating a segment in Mailchimp from Bouncer cleaned contact tags

When you are done, click Review Segment. You’ll see a list of all the email addresses included. If you want to change some manually, click Edit Segment. If you’re happy, click Save Segment.

reviewing a segment in Mailchimp

And that’s it. Your segment is now ready to send to. If you have a campaign ready to send, you can do it from the Segments page. Just click the drop-down menu tag next to your new segment and click Send Regular Campaign. 

sending an email campaign to verified contacts in Mailchimp

Prevent Cleaned Contacts in Mailchimp with Email Verification at Signup

Bouncer email verification API

Bouncer offers another way to clean up contacts before they get ‘cleaned’ by Mailchimp. Its Email Verification API can stop risky emails from getting onto your Mailchimp list in the first place.

Bouncer’s API lets you directly plug email verification into the signup forms on your website. When someone signs up, the Bouncer API automatically runs a check. If someone mistypes or uses a disposable or fake email address, it gets checked and tagged.

This means you can filter out ‘bad’ emails from the very start. This will lead to lower bounce rates and a better sender reputation. 

Try Bouncer for free here

What Does Cleaned Mean in Mailchimp: Conclusion

So to recap, everyone wants a ‘clean’ email contact list. Weeding out ‘bad’ emails lowers bounce rates and protects your sender reputation. Keep your list clean, and you’ll land more emails in people’s inboxes. And get better results for your email marketing campaigns.

But Mailchimp ‘cleans’ email addresses after a bounce happens. Once an address is tagged as cleaned, you can’t send to it again. Which is a good thing. But that initial bounce has already happened, affecting your bounce rates. And Mailchimp also keeps cleaned emails in your list, so you have to pay for them.

If you’re a Mailchimp user, try cleaning your email lists before Mailchimp does. Using a service like Bouncer means you won’t get as many bounces in the first place. You can also remove unwanted emails from your contact list so you don’t have to pay for them.

What Does Cleaned Mean in Mailchimp FAQ

What is cleaned status in Mailchimp?

Cleaned status in Mailchimp is a tag used for contact list hygiene. If a contact is marked as cleaned, it means an email sent to that address has bounced. Mailchimp won’t let you send future email campaigns to cleaned addresses.

A bounce happens when an email doesn’t reach an email account’s inbox. High bounce rates harm the sender reputation of email service providers. The worse the sender reputation, the more likely it is emails will attract a spam complaint. So Mailchimp blocks bounced addresses to protect service quality for all users. Find out how good your reputation is with the best IP reputation checkers.

Does Mailchimp clean hard bounces?

Yes, Mailchimp cleans email addresses when a hard bounce occurs. Hard bounces happen when there is a permanent issue stopping an email landing in an account’s inbox. This might be because an email address is fake or incorrect. Or because an account has been shut down. Alternatively, bounces might happen because of a temporary problem. For example, if the recipient’s email server is down. Or their inbox is full. This is a ‘soft’ bounce. 

Mailchimp will clean an email address from a single hard bounce. But it will only mark a contact as cleaned after several soft bounces.

Should you delete cleaned contacts from Mailchimp?

Yes, you should delete cleaned contacts from Mailchimp. You’re charged for every contact in your list. If a contact is cleaned, it stays on your list. But that person can’t receive email campaigns from you. That means you are paying for a contact you can’t use. So it makes sense to delete any contact marked as cleaned.

How do I remove cleaned contacts from Mailchimp?

To remove cleaned contacts from Mailchimp, you first have to create a segment for them. Go to the Audience dashboard tab in the main menu to do this. Then All Contacts. Open the Manage Contacts drop-down menu. Then select Data Management Tool.

Click New Segment and change the conditions box to Cleaned. Hit Preview Segment. You can now choose which cleaned contacts you want to delete. Or leave them all checked to delete all of them. 

Choose the Permanently Delete option. You will be prompted to type PERMANENTLY DELETE to confirm. When you do that and hit confirm, those contacts will be removed from your account completely. 

About Paul Newham


Paul Newham is a content writer specialising in business blogging, report writing, software reviews, and online copywriting. He has 5+ years of email marketing, marketing automation and software review experience. He tested over 60 business software including email marketing tools, CRMs, outreach services, SMTP providers, email verification, and AI writing tools.

With a background in journalism and PR, he understands business content from both sides. And knows what makes for great, engaging copy, but also understands that for businesses, the written word is all about driving value.

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