How-To Geek

Ask the Readers: How Do You Keep Your Email SPAM Free and Tidy?

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Email can be a fantastically efficient way to deal with communication, but not if it’s bogged down with SPAM messages and poorly organized. This week we want to hear all about the tips, tricks, and ninja-filters you use to keep your inbox tidy.

Whether it’s special filters for your Bacon (spam-like marketing that you actually want to receive and occasional review), services you use to block spammers, or organization tips you use to keep your email inbox streamlined with no message unreplied to, we want to hear all about it. Sound off in the comments with your proclamations of your inbox-fu and how you maintain zen-like mastery over your email workflow. Be sure to check in on Friday for the What You Said roundup.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 06/27/12

Comments (51)

  1. TechGeek01

    I usually just read emails, and delete them when my inbox gets kinda full. As for spam, I mark it as such, and the automated spam filter usually catches it the next time. It’s a fairly simple method, I know, but it’s efficient, and takes almost no effort, other than a monthly cleaning.

  2. Superevil

    I use Gmail. I may get one or two spam messages a year that make it through the filter.

  3. spike

    I use Gmail as well. When I get a spam message, I mark it as such, and Gmail does a great job of catching similar ones after that.

  4. infmom

    MailWasher Pro. It checks mail in all my accounts and shows me the headers. I can choose to read the whole message if I want. Then I can mark things to be deleted right out of the inbox. It will also send a bogus “no such account” message if you want to try to convince someone you’re not there any more.

    Not free, but worth every cent I paid for it.

  5. thegeekkid

    For Spam:
    1. Separate disposable email accounts
    2. The few spams that actually make it to my personal account get sent to spam the first time, and after that I create a filter that automatically trashes it when it comes in so that I don’t even have to spend the time emptying my spam folder
    3. Don’t give your email address out to anyone. That always helps! ;)

    For neatness:
    1. Delete anything non-essential right away
    2. Separate folders for anything I need to save such as receipts, work, legal stuff, etc.
    3. Again, if you don’t give your email address out to anyone, then you don’t have anything to worry about! ;)

  6. fleamour

    + 3; Gmail

  7. fleamour

    They apply their Google Search Algorithm to your inbox. Virtually faultless…

  8. Andy Hamori

    I used Outlook Express then Windows Live Mail and now I use Outlook. In all of them I use the”Message Rules” to separate the incoming mail to my many folders in my inbox automatically based on the Sender or Subject.

  9. Suresh

    If something passes through the spam filter in to my inbox, I make sure to mark them as junk, so that others getting similar emails would get flagged automatically. If its something that involves money on body of email, then I would take an extra step to block the sender and also mark it for phishing scam. If hlaf the people receiving spams do this, then we would have blocked almost close to 80% of spams.

  10. Doc

    Another vote for Mailwasher. I like POP3 and a dedicated email client as opposed to web/cloud email, and Mailwasher running between client/server works just great (for me).

  11. Raging God

    I open new e-mail every 6 month. LOL!!

    That way I don’t get spam for at least a month until spammers somehow finds my e-mail

  12. Danny

    By not giving out my email address to anyone but trustworthy friends.

  13. Cameochi

    On my desktop I use Windows Live Mail. I use a Gmail account for general mail and if I do get spam, I go out to the web and mark it as such. For financial matters and important stuff I use Roadrunner but those email addresses are used only by trusted sources. Spam is pretty close to non existent here.

  14. Tech Checkers

    Add One for Gmail, fantastic enterprise grade Anti-Spam, Highly Recommended.

  15. Paul

    Danny: even trustworthy friends might share your email address, even by simply sharing an eBay link with you.

  16. DucatiGuy

    MailWasher Pro, (GMail’s almost as good).

    I’ve stopped using my ISP’s spam filter because of false positives, MWP lets me eyeball everything that shows up and dismiss junk and trivia in a matter of seconds.

    I can even send off a quick reply – the only mail that makes it through to my email client is stuff I want to file or reply to later.

    Affordable, and there’s a free light version.

  17. John Richards

    I wish yahoo mail would allow you to use wildcards to block addresses.
    I’ll get spam from one day and the next day.
    It would be nice to block all by *

  18. ArchersCall

    I have a triple system and rarely see spam.

    FIRST – I use Earthlink’s white list option. This means, if you’re not in my address book, you automatically get sent to the suspected spam folder. The sender gets sent an automated response about this so they know and get an option to ask to be added to my white list. Spammer never use this option so I don’t get a ton of “Please add me requests”. I get requests from real people who know me, or legitimate businesses who need to contact me.

    SECOND – all email from my earthlink account is then forwarded or captured by gmail, where gmail does it’s own spam check and I can flag anything that comes in as spam as well. Gmail does a good job of filtering all on it’s own and it’s a great secondary system to the white list I use.

    THIRD – If the email gets past Earthlink and Gmail, it’s then passed through my many gmail filters to be sorted and organized or trashed as the case may be.


    TIP #1 – I don’t give out my gmail address. I use it as an online “outlook” type system where I have Earthlink going to gmail as explained above. Even if you were to know my gmail address and sent a message to it, it would automatically be trashed, forwarded, and an automated response from my spiffy secondary “you can’t email” address would tell you, you can’t contact me through that address and if they reply to that, they get trashed again the automated response again until they get the message. I NEVER see the emails.

    TIP #2 – I use my very old Earthlink address as my very public address. It can be given to almost anyone because no matter who I give it to, if they send me email, they wont get through unless I add them to my address book. So I don’t need a separate spam address. White lists are the best way to avoid spam!!!


    My elaborate system that helps me do two things really well.

    1. I get no spam at all (99.9% of the time)

    2. If I dont want to communicate with someone or they are stalking me etc… I can easily never be bothered with seeing their email with a few clicks.

    This system give me ultimate control over who contacts me.


    I must remember to add a new person/business to my address book before they send me an email otherwise they get the spam blocker message from Earthlink. Sometimes I don’t always know what email address I’m going to have to add to my address book, so I occasionally have to look in my suspected spam folder on Earthlink to see if my new friend or business got blocked, and then add them to my address book. This is pretty simple since Earthlink has a button for this in their UI. Most smart people who get the spam blocker message simply hit the request link and i don’t have to go through this, but occasionally dumb/lazy people ignore the message and I have to dig them out of my spam folder.

  19. Henry


    spam filters are great and smart labels keep everything organized and can even keep certain things out of your inbox

    I’ve only gotten a few spam through and those are more likely a case of giving out my email address to a company I shouldn’t have

  20. Henrique

    after gmail became ubiquitous amont people I know, spam vanished form workplace and happy hour conversation

    I even got my father to use gmail as a client for his work email, and he has been happy ever since

  21. edmenje

    I have a number of email addresses, Gmail, Yahoo (account still active and has been in use from before Gmail began) and others (even professional address with my registered domain).

    Gmail address for most important friends, etc…I check this one all the time and delete frequently after mails are responded to or read needing no response, their spam filter is good at keeping me from seeing any spam, and my client’s IMAP folder does not even sync with web-interface’s spam folder. My domain email is only given to professional contacts and checked and cleaned as frequently as Gmail account.

    The others are tiered so that I use them when registering at websites by estimating of how many emails will be recieved by them, their affiliated sites or who they will sell their lists to. I then use a couple of different ones based on that estimate (usually I’m pretty accurate)…check these about once a week and clean them up when the volume gets too high. These receive the most spam btw.

  22. kwe

    I use Yahoo Mail Plus disposable email addresses to sign up to web accounts. I use Thunderbird filters to sort email into separate folders and a scripted folder named “Unread” to see all unread messages in all folders.

    Yahoo Mail Plus would be a much better service if you didn’t have to manually create each disposable email address. I use one per vendor so I can delete the address if and when they get spammy.

  23. Grant

    When I have to sign up on a site I don’t trust, I typically use Mailinator (, which lets you create disposable emails you can just use and forget about.

    If you have your own domain like me, you can also append 01 to your name (ex. grant01@—, so if that email gets on spam lists, you can forward it to and move on to 02, and so on. More of a hassle, but useful if you can’t / don’t want to use Mailinator.

    In general, I only give out my actual email to people/sites I trust won’t spam me. As a result, I rarely ever get spam. And even then, most of it is Culver’s giving me coupons or the flavor of the day calendar for the month :)

  24. geekboy

    I have my own domain name and keep one or two real email accounts. Then I have aliases that point to either of the accounts. I use an alias for each service/site I signup for.

    Once I start getting any spam, I can immediately delete the alias and create a new one. It is also a tip-off to which site may have “leaked” or “sold” my address.

  25. Utkarsh

    Gmail works great !!

  26. Two Replies

    A STRONG set of dozens of filters.
    And I maintain them meticulously.
    They’re better maintained than most bonzai.

    Oh, and I unsubscribe from any lists from companies/sitesI know I’ve interacted with.
    The rest get marked as spam and I let gmail filter them.
    Finally, auto-archive and nested labels.

  27. keltari

    For public email, Yahoo Mail’s spam filter is excellent. I know a lot of people have switched to Gmail, but personally I dont like it.

    For the enterprise, I havent found a product I particularly find amazing. They tend to over filter or under filter spam. In the end, I always opt for under filtering, as its better not to miss an important email.

    As for spam itself, I dont see what the big hullabaloo is. “They” have said spam mail can take up hours of a persons day. I find that hard to believe. Spam and junk mail is blatantly obvious, either by the sender name or the title of the email itself. It takes just a few second to identify them and delete them, no matter how many.

  28. cpx

    I use GMail, everything I don’t wanna see goes into Spam folder automatically. In case I see some crap im Inbox, I mark it as spam. Simple, innit?

  29. Kurt

    We use Message Labs at work, which works very well and is a real enterprise solution.

    For my personal email, I use the Spamfence service from ( Free for personal use. It is, in a word, super. I have been using it for about 8 years now and never had to look back.

  30. David Breece

    Another vote for Gmail.

    Spam is extremely rare in my inbox, and organization is not even something you have to think about – tag your email as it comes in and then throw it in the archive. Tags > Folders anyday.

  31. KB Prez

    I’ve been using MailWasher Pro to filter emails for years. It has several features that have worked well for me. It lets me set up white/black lists. If receive email from someone not on my whitelist, I can bounce it back if I choose. The Pro version is paid software, but they also have a free version.

  32. jeeepers

    Every year I change (get new) email accounts by adding the current year after my name. (ie,

  33. OldSalt

    I have multiple email boxes on one account. One for private/personal and another for commersial/potential spammers named junkmailx where x= a number series. So when ordering anything online or when I have to give an email address to subscribe, I give junkmail1@…as the email address. Then all spamming email goes into that box. If it is an email that I want to receive, I either move it to private email or set up a rule to move it automatically. Sort of an Opt-in rather than delete- out system. Once the spam becomes so bad, I just rename the email box to the next number in the series and then the spammers have the wrong address….Starts fresh.

  34. Steve Devereux CEng

    I’ve had the same email address since 1996 so hundreds of spams head this way every day. I use Postini to filter them, review the subjects in the daily Postini email. Ones that get through I make a note of the originating email address on a post-it and every few days I put them in the Postini forbidden domains or email addresses.

    I get around 500 spams a day hitting Postini and around 20 legit emails average daily.

  35. Kestrel

    Another vote for MailWasher Pro.

  36. Iagoman

    I use OUTLOOK 2003 in conjunction with CHOICEMAIL, a filtering program that only allows email from
    my OUTLOOK. I can allow or dis-allow any email that arrives in my UNKNOWN. or JUNK folder.
    You can place an email address in your “WHITELIST” (approved senders) or in your BLACKLIST (rejected senders).
    There’s also a feature that holds emails in a “Senders waiting for approval” folder.
    A msg can be sent asking a sender to verify who or why they sent an email. If no answer during a specified time, the email goes into the JUNK folder and can be auto deleted in a time period set by the user.
    I have been using Choicemail for about 8 years. I’m on the original version and have never updated to their later versions…no need, it works just great.

  37. Hisa

    I don’t actually *use* anything to help with spam. I am lazy and set in my ways. I segregate my email addresses instead. The huge downfall of my method is too many email addresses, lots of passwords and multiple online profiles to keep track of. 0.o

    I have a couple email addresses I use for sign-ups for online promotions or discussion boards like this one. One is strictly for discussion boards and forums that I am sure I will like or that I *know* are safe (ie was recommended by work or a close friend who also uses it). I then have the other email addresses for promotions, boards and forums I am not 100% sure about. When I find out it is something I don’t like, I simply either mark as spam or set a rule to always delete the offending updates. If I find out I like it, I simply update my profile for the site, board, etc to the correct email.

    I then have 4 emails specifically for public profiles on social sites like Facebook, Twitter, deviantART, Delicious, etc. Sites I WANT information from such as deviantART get one email address while sites who have an outrageous amount of updates, email, notifications, etc have another email. Facebook, I can tell you right now, has it’s own email address that I go in and mass delete emails about every 3 months. ^^

    I have other business-related emails with domains I run plus work email. All of those emails are kept secret unless needed to be given out to business contacts. I rely on my work spam filter mostly for those but also set up rules or mark as spam anything that sneaks through.

    If I don’t know who or what it is, as a rule I keep my email to myself. I have a public email that I let people see and contact, and if a person contacts me who does not appear to be spam and I can verify is not spam, they are later given a *real* email address. The rest of the emails to that particular account rot.

    Obviously, I have a system for passwords: LastPass is a GODSEND. I use Gmail and Yahoo for my *serious* accounts as they have good options for filtering, Outlook 2010 and 2007 for work email, and several emails that are domain specific for business only, and then Hotmail, Freemail (, Hushmail, and Tripod’s email option (since I used to use them for free websites when they still gave free email) for all the rest of it.

    Complicated, outrageous, but it has been working for me since … good lord, the late 90s?!?!

  38. speedbump

    I have several Domains, so it was easy to change email addresses when the spam got bad.

    Now I use Thunderbird. They have a junk mail filter system which works very well.

  39. Brian

    Super cheap and can handle multiple accounts.
    Unbelievably effective algorithms to catch the spam.
    Provides daily reports.

  40. David

    1. Preview headers on multipple accounts
    (pop3 + more )Preview email headers using Poppeeper + Spampal. Works for mutliple accounts.
    Hence without collecting body (safer) can delete off rubbish or quickly see & read priorities.

    2. Pop3 client
    Spampal also integrates with WinMail (yes, Vista Winmail..) so detected mail is marked **SPAM**

    Mail rule in Winmail sorts mail, and **SPAM** is moved to a SPAM folder.

    Also have Spamfighter integrated with Winmail.

    Spampal doesn’t seem to apply blacklists using wildcards.

  41. Bob

    Gmail, which I open every three or four months, just to delete all, 10 minute mail for sites that don’t need my email, but insist on it anyways. And for my ISP privided address, any one I want to receive mail from must put a specific character string in the subject or it will be automatically deleted.

  42. Peter Medlicott

    I check my GMail daily and I usually get two or three spam messages a day which Gmail puts in the spam folder automatically I check the names and delete them on a daily task. I have amongst many Emails had Google mistake a genuine mail only once and from there it is easy to post it back to my inbox. Gmail does a terrific job with spam

  43. Someone

    Gmail, catches everything, I do use some filters for Bacon, I actually use alot of filters for filing e-mails in labels and skipping inbox, makes it very tidy.

  44. howard10

    like Ray replied I am amazed that a mother able to profit $4635 in 1 month on the computer. did you read this page N U T T Y R | C H . C O M

  45. Jeff

    Another vote for Mailwasher Pro. Been using it for years. Best part is you are actually viewing what emails have arrived on the server and can make for deletion, mark as spam to be recognized as such next time if a newie, and then accept what mail to be downloaded.

  46. Frank

    since my Hotmail account was hacked (I think at the server) and the trojan deleted all (years of) my emails and my contacts before sending them emails purportedly from me – ‘look at this link for great discount iPhones’ which would load the trojan onto their PCs –

    I’ve used Thunderbird for my Hotmail and Gmail accounts – storing a local copy of all my emails, which I backup once a week.

    This works for me as I only use these emails at home – but I feel safer knowing I’ve backup copies of years of emails and contacts.

  47. MGtrek

    I use four different email accounts – one for personal, trusted people; one for registering to companies that I have a good feeling will honor their ‘no sell’ policy; one for mailing lists and low trust companies; and a trash one.

    I use a standard spam filter on the first three. This way I can easily check the trusted one often and my contacts come right through. I check the mailing list and registration ones once or twice a day as time permits. The spam filter does let the occasional one get through, but after adjusting the throttle, there are very few Houdinis. As for the spam filter, I never trust it. Once a day I go through the spam boxes and delete the messages that I personally confirm as spam. I have found several important emails in there (usually they seem to be tagged if they have a key word and multiple recipients).

    The trash one is used for sites that require an email and you know are going to spam you. I’ll use it, let them respond with my confirmation, look for that one email, and go on my way. Then they can spam it until it is full and I really don’t care.

    Another trick that I use is to have and ‘inbox-2’ on all of my accounts. As soon as I look at the emails and know they are good, I move them to the second inbox. That keeps my inbox mostly empty so that I can more quickly scan the emails.

  48. Mike

    I usually get 2 or 3 spams daily. They automatically go into a spam folder and when I open that folder and don’t recognize the senders I’ll just hit delete all. I’ve opened the spam email before and scroll down to unsubscribe but that never works. So just delete.

  49. Deb

    I use Spam Fighter. It has worked wonderfully!!!

  50. kma

    I use spampal, although it is old and usupported, it still works good, tags my messages against BlackLists I choose.

  51. SMed79

    I use spamcom to repport spamers

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