How-To Geek

What You Said: How You Keep Your Email SPAM Free and Tidy

Earlier this week we asked you to share your favorite tips and tricks for keeping your inbox tidy. Now we’re back to share your–rather aggressive–SPAM dodging tricks.

HTG readers are serious about beating back SPAM. While some readers such as TechGeek01 took a fairly laid back approach to junk mail:

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.

For other readers it was outright war. ArchersCall uses a system of layers and whitelists:

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.

Layers and obfuscation were a common technique deployed by readers to cut down on SPAM. Many readers, perhaps in a bid to avoid that level of investment in their anti-SPAM measures, turned to commercial tools. KB Prez writes:

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.

For more SPAM fighting tips, tricks, and recommended services, hit up the full comments thread.

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 06/29/12

Comments (11)

  1. r

    Mmmm!!…Spam,…spicy ham.

  2. TheFu

    Spam …
    * Use an email gateway to prevent clearly spam emails access to the email server.
    * SpamAssassin with an easily discovered training account.
    * Postgrey to block uncommon email sending connections. Greylisting is pretty effective.
    * Use TLS/SSL SMTP whenever possible.
    * Use SPF whenever possible.
    * Don’t get a virus on your desktops.

    There are newer trusted sender methods, but those haven’t caught on widely.

  3. Iszi

    I think one important point may have been missed: Don’t give your e-mail out to just everyone. That’s perhaps the biggest thing you can (or rather, don’t) do to keep spam from ever being sent to you – let alone cluttering your inbox.

  4. Johann

    Must just be me that the gmail spam filter is good enough for. I get about one case every couple of months of something in my inbox that is spam and i’ve only ever had one email get falsly tagged as spam. Takes all of 30s to scan that folder once a week or so. As far as I can see spam is no longer an issue. I just wish gmail had those hotmail features for newsletters (delete after so many days, delete after so many copies arrive etc.)

  5. Kevalin

    Don’t sign up to FaceBook. Ever.

  6. Brad

    It’s called the “Delete button” use it often and feel better!

  7. Scott

    Multiple emails work best for me. If a vendor/organizations/HowtoGeek requires an email, I give them a non-personal email. My personal email addresses are then restricted to friends and family.

    Then, I only need an occassional cleaning of the ‘public’ email. With my iPhone and Microsoft Outlook, I can easily control which accounts I want to see on a daily basis.

  8. Gus

    Here’s a top tip.
    DON’T give your email address to how to geek!
    I regularly receive spam from an address, howtogeek@{my domain name}, that I only ever used for this site.

  9. donebb

    I use Windows Live Mail and if you aren’t in my address book or marked as safe, you go to junk mail folder. I get 40-80 junk mails a day. I have to check them because my job is semi public for a non profit, so a lot of times I get e-mails in my junk folder that I want. I just move them to the Inbox and mark them as safe. I use this same address for everything, even though I have several e-mail accounts, and have been giving it out for over 10 years.

    I don’t know if I just don’t get that much but with what I do get, it takes less than 2 minutes a day to deal with the junk, (unless I decide that I want to read the letter about how I can get 15 million dollars from a dead general in Nigeria, they are fun to read once in a while) so I don’t see it as a big issue.

  10. Rick S

    I don’t get enough spam to worry about most of the time. If they send me too many I just block them.

    Some times the same people chang their email address and I get the same spam next day. After a while they just quit.

    Also our ISP has spam filters that work pretty darn good.

  11. one2busy

    1st, I have two(2) emails:
    (1) for important stuff and limited to a selected group of email senders
    (2) for ‘whatever’ and is open to anyone.

    2nd, These email addr’s are on different sites.

    3rd, Each month I go to each site, clean out the ones indicated by the ISP as spam, then
    look at who the others are from (usually the subject informs me) and delete all that
    do not seem to be ‘dangerous’.

    4th, If something is important, I forward it to my ‘important’ addr examine it if necessary,
    then save it if needed.

    I keep all my important emails on my system which I back up 3x’s weekly.


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