What Does Cleaned Mean in Mailchimp? Cleaned Contacts Explained

If you’ve been using Mailchimp for your email marketing you’ve likely noticed a little ‘cleaned’ badge next to some of your email contacts. 

The first question many people have when they first notice this badge is: what does Mailchimp mean by ‘cleaned’?

And it’s not just these ‘cleaned’ badges that can raise questions and create confusion. 

Mailchimp also contains many other badges beyond the standard ‘subscribed’ (the one you want to see) including ‘unsubscribed,’ ‘non-subscribed’ and ‘pending.’

So, let’s take a look at exactly what cleaned contacts mean in Mailchimp and how Mailchimp manages your email lists. 

What is a cleaned contact in Mailchimp?

Basically, a cleaned contact in Mailchimp is an email address that can no longer receive emails. 

This happens because previous attempts to send an email to the address failed, resulting in what’s known as an ‘email bounce.’ There are two types of email bounces: soft and hard. 

Soft bounces

Soft bounces are when there’s a temporary issue preventing emails from being delivered. This can include the recipient’s inbox being full, the recipient’s email server being down, or the email being too large to be delivered.

Because soft bounces are due to a temporary issue, Mailchimp doesn’t ‘clean’ the contact straight away if they occur. Instead, Mailchimp will still attempt to send future email campaigns to the address.

If soft bounces keep occurring after multiple attempts to send email campaigns, then Mailchimp considers this a ‘hard bounce.’ 

Hard bounces

Hard bounces occur when there’s a permanent issue preventing an address from receiving emails. 

This can happen due to reasons such as an invalid or non-existent email address, a blocked email address, or a domain that does not exist. Multiple soft bounces is also considered a hard bounce. 

Learn more about hard bounces and how you can avoid them in our guide here.

What happens to cleaned contacts?

When a hard bounce occurs, the email contact is automatically marked as cleaned by Mailchimp. 

This means you can no longer send email marketing campaigns to the contact. You also cannot send them postcards, transactional emails, or target paid ads to them. 

While you can still view the contacts and export them, you cannot edit them. 

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What about unsubscribed, non-subscribed and pending contacts?

In addition to cleaned contacts, Mailchimp also has a few other labels for email contacts that are not subscribed to your email marketing. Including:


These are email contacts that were previously subscribed to your email marketing but have since unsubscribed. You can still send them postcards, transactional emails and target paid ads to them, but you cannot send them marketing emails. 


Together with ‘unsubscribed,’ this label creates confusion for many people as the difference between the two labels isn’t immediately clear. 

The difference with unsubscribed contacts is that non-subscribed contacts were never subscribed to your email marketing. 

Like with unsubscribed contacts, you can send them postcards, transactional emails and target paid ads to them, but you cannot send them marketing emails. 

Confusingly, when you look at your audience dashboard, these contacts do not have a badge next to them informing you they’re non-subscribed. You can only tell they’re non-subscribed from the absence of any other badge indicating they’re a different type of contact. 


The final type of email contact you may find in your audiences is ‘pending.’ 

Pending contacts occur when someone has filled out a signup form but didn’t complete the second step of your double opt-in

Mailchimp treats these contacts in the same manner as cleaned contacts – you cannot send them anything including transactional emails.

Impact on the amount Mailchimp charges you

Now that you have an idea of what all the different types of contacts in Mailchimp mean, let’s take a look at how they can impact your account’s monthly billing. 

Mailchimp pricing is based on how many contacts you have. However, being first and foremost an email marketing platform, you might think that if you cannot send a contact a marketing email, they will not count towards your monthly billing. 

While that’s the case with many other email marketing platforms (including SmartrMail), it’s not necessarily the case with Mailchimp. 

For example, you cannot send marketing emails to either unsubscribed or non-subscribed email contacts. However, both still count toward your monthly plan limit. 

This means you’re paying for contacts who cannot receive your latest newsletter or email campaign. 

You might be thinking this isn’t a big deal: you’ll just not add any contacts who haven’t subscribed to your email list in Mailchimp so you only pay for the ones you can send marketing emails to. 

But some subscribers naturally unsubscribe over time and Mailchimp keeps these contacts active in your lists, just with an unsubscribed label attached. Meaning you’re automatically still charged for them. 

Unlike Mailchimp, we believe this is wrong. 

This is why SmartrMail only charges you for your total number of opted-in subscribers. Once a subscriber unsubscribes they’re immediately and automatically no longer counted toward your billing. 

Mailchimp also charges multiple times for duplicate contacts

Your Mailchimp account is made up of different audiences. More commonly known as email lists. 

While some Mailchimp accounts only contain a single audience, if you have multiple audiences you need to be careful not to be charged multiple times for the same contact. 

This is because if the same email address appears in multiple audiences, Mailchimp considers them different contacts for billing purposes. 

So if you have [email protected] in three different audiences, Mailchimp will charge you three times for that one customer. 

Again, we believe this is wrong. With SmartrMail you’re only ever charged once for a unique email address, no matter how many lists it appears in. 

Free migration offer

The choice is yours

Mailchimp has had a notoriously rocky relationship with its customers over pricing. 

From major price hikes and complicated list management to abruptly suspending integrations with major platforms like Shopify, there are plenty of reasons merchants look for better solutions than Mailchimp. 

If you’re looking for a Mailchimp alternative with simpler list management, which doesn’t charge you for contacts you cannot send your newsletter to or charge you multiple times for the same customer, reach out to us. 

We offer free migration and onboarding support to all new customers coming across from Mailchimp. We’ll also throw in a generous offer to sweeten the deal.

To see how we can help, jump on a call with us here.

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