Chances are, your email inbox is a mix of important messages, Amazon Prime shipping notices, bill alerts, and other easy-to-ignore offers.
But spam creeps in. Sometimes you do it yourself—enter your email address to win that contest!—and sometimes others do it for you. Thanks for the blankof-the-month club email list, mom.
Luckily, there are easy ways to kill unwanted emails, and they don't involved sending invective-filled rants to the sender.
Unsubscribe Links Made Easy
The cleanest way to get off a list is to use the built-in unsubscribe option. That link is generally buried at the bottom of the message, in tiny type or made to not even look like a link, all the better to keep you subscribed.
(The chance that the unsubscribe link is a trick—a way to confirm you are a real person—is low. Be smart about it; if something looks fishy, just delete.)
Gmail makes it easy to unsubscribe on the desktop. Whenever it notices a working unsubscribe link in a message, it puts its own unsubscribe link at the top of the message, right next to the address of the sender's email. Click it and a giant Unsubscribe button appears.
It's a little harder on mobile. In the Gmail for iOS, the only option at this point is to mark a message as spam; tap the three dots on the top right > Report spam. On Android, touch the menu; if the sender offers an easy unsubscribe option, the word Unsubscribe will appear on the menu.
On the built-in iOS Mail app, look for a banner reading "This message is from a mailing list. Unsubscribe" atop your messages, which will email the sender with the unsub request.
What's interesting is, looking at the same messages with Gmail on the desktop and mobile, Email, and other apps with a more prominent unsub option shows that they don't all recognize the links the same way, nor even support it within the same messages.
At least when you're on the mobile apps like Email, which supports multiple services (usually Gmail, Outlook, iCloud, Yahoo, and IMAP accounts), you can unsubscribe across all the services.
Want to unsubscribe from mail in a big batch? Several services make it possible. The downside: you have to give these services complete access to your inbox for them to find messages with an unsubscribe option; sometimes that includes your contacts. Like Heinlein said: TANSTAAFL.
This is as simple as it gets. Put your email address in at GetUnsubscriber.com and the service sticks an Unsubscriber folder/label in your inbox. Drag messages you no longer want into that folder, and Unsubscriber will filter messages out until the unsub request goes through. It works with any email provider, though the site includes quick links for Gmail, Outlook.com, Yahoo Mail, and Aol.
It's free to use, but the service states up front "we collect and share certain information about non-personal email messages (e.g., commercial emails)." The company behind Unsubscriber, Return Path, also offers an extension for Google Chrome called Whisker, which manages unwanted email (including spam).
Available on the web, or via an iOS app, Unroll.me looks into the heart of your Outlook.com, Gmail/GSuite, Yahoo Mail, and Aol account to locate messages you probably don't want. You can also try an email address from another service.
In return, you get a list of all the senders you could nix; pick the ones you don't want, and Unroll.me does the rest. It also offers a service called The Rollup so you can re-subscribe to select mailings, but they'll get funneled to you via Unroll.me in a daily digest. You can edit (or deactivate) The Rollup any time.
Unroll.me is free, but it does want full access to your messages and contacts. Its parent company, Slice Technologies, says it ignores personal email and anonymizes the messages it sees, but it's using all of the data it can to sell market research based on users.
Remember when companies dropped the "e" before the "r" to make a name? Unlistr does!
There is no web-based interface; Unlistr has a free Android app and a $20 add-on for Outlook (the one in Office, not Outlook.com). You sign up using your email account—any that supports IMAP/POP accounts, plus Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Outlook.com), and others. Essentially, if you know the incoming and outgoing server settings, it should work. You get a list of senders to unsubscribe from all at once.
Unlistr does all its processing locally on your smartphone, keeps messages encrypted, and avoids trying to un-sub you from known spammers so you won't get more. It doesn't currently collect any information, according to the FAQ.