If you receive a lot of junk and clutter in your inbox, it can be overwhelming to find the messages you actually want to read. To help out, we’ve rounded up some of the best methods on how to avoid useless emails in Outlook.
By making use of the in-built filter system, approving and blocking senders, applying rules, and more, you can ensure that you’re only seeing legitimate emails that are of interest.
If you have your own method to share, please be sure to let us know in the comments section.
1. Adjust the Junk Filter
Outlook has a filter system that will automatically check your incoming email, determine if it’s junk, then move it to an appropriate location. There are varying levels to the system, each offering a different level of protection. To change your settings, go to the Home tab and navigate to Junk > Junk E-mail Options…
By default, there won’t be any automatic filtering, though if you’ve set any blocked senders then they’ll be moved to the junk folder. You can set it Low to filter out obvious junk, High to catch most junk, but with a chance of some normal email being caught too, or Safe Lists Only to receive emails only from those you’ve approved.
You can also choose to Permanently delete suspected junk e-mail instead of moving it to the Junk E-mail folder, but this doesn’t come recommended. If you choose this option then some real emails could get flagged incorrectly and you won’t be able to retrieve them.
2. Use the Clutter Folder
If you have Office 365 for Business then you can make use of a feature called Clutter. Enabled by default, Clutter analyses a message and judges whether it’ll file it in your Inbox or your Clutter folder.
The system will look at various parts of the message, like who the sender is and whether it’s a conversation you’ve participated in. It will determine what to do with the email based on your previous reading habits. You can help the system learn by moving a message to Clutter by right-clicking it and going to Move > Move to Clutter. Similarly, you can move a message to the Inbox by right-clicking a message in Clutter and going to Move > Move to Inbox.
If you don’t want to use Clutter, you’ll need to turn it off via the web version of Outlook. Once signed in, click the cog icon and navigate to Options > Mail > Automatic processing > Clutter. Once here, untick the box Separate items identified as clutter and click Save.
3. Look at the Safety Tips
If you’re running Office 365 and using an Exchange server, you’ll see colored safety tips appear at the top of some messages to alert you to the nature of its contents. These indicators will show whether the message is suspicious, unknown, trusted or safe.
Those marked as suspicious have a failed sender authentication or are suspected spoofing messages. It’s recommended that you delete these emails without interacting with them, though you can choose to Show blocked content if you’re sure it’s safe.
Those marked as unknown are suspected of being spam and are moved to the junk folder. You can click It’s not spam to move it to your inbox. If the message is trusted or safe then no action is required, but you’ll receive the safety tip for reassurance as to the message’s authenticity.
4. Block and Approve Senders
You can block and approve senders in Outlook; either a specific email address or an entire domain. To block an email sender, right-click the message and go to Junk > Block Sender. Now any message received from that email address will automatically go into your junk folder.
You can manage this list at any time by going to the Home tab, then Junk > Junk E-mail Options… and switching to the Blocked Senders tab. Here you can use the buttons to Add, Edit, and Remove entries from the list. Here you can either add a specific email address or just an entire domain – for example, either
firstname.lastname@example.org or just
The Junk E-mail Options window is also where you can approve senders. Switch to the Safe Senders tab for that. Here you can add email addresses or domains which you always want Outlook to trust. This means that the messages from these senders will never be sent into your junk folder and any images within them will automatically be displayed.
You can tick to Also trust e-mail from my Contacts and Automatically add people I e-mail to the Safe Senders List to speed up the management and save you having to manually add a lot of the addresses.
5. Filter With Rules
Using rules in Outlook is a great way to take control over your inbox. By specifying the conditions, you can then determine the action taken. For example, you could automatically move emails from certain people into a particular folder. Or you could have emails with particular words automatically color categorized.
To get started in the Outlook client, go to the Home tab and click Rules > Create Rule… If you already had an email open then you’ll get some options preselected, but you can click Advanced Options… to fully customize the rule. First select the conditions you want, then click the underlined value to specify the rule description. Then click Next to determine what to do with any messages that match those conditions. Then click Finish.
You can achieve similar things in the web version of Outlook. Click the cog icon in the top right and then click Manage Rules > New. However, the options available to you will be more limited when compared to the desktop client.
For more information on setting up rules in Outlook, check out our guide on managing your inbox with rules.
Control Your Inbox
Using some of the methods above will help you take control of your inbox, filtering out the junk and allowing you to quickly access the emails that you actually want to read. Check out our guide on boosting your Outlook workflow if you want to be even more efficient with your email management.
Remember, some spam emails may still slip through the cracks and land in your inbox. If you don’t recognize the sender or the contents, be wary. Especially proceed with caution if there’s a dangerous looking email attachment.
Do you use any of the methods above to avoid email clutter? Do you have any of your own advice to share?