As business winds down for Christmas, this can be a good time of year to perform some essential housekeeping. So maybe you could find time in the next couple of weeks to clear up that inbox.

If you’ve ever seen the Conversation Clean Up feature in Outlook and wondered what it does, it provides a useful way of reducing the number of messages in your mail folders. Yes, all redundant messages throughout a Conversation are moved to the Deleted Items folder – at the click of a button.

What is a conversation?

You might know a Conversation by the term email thread. A Conversation is the complete set of email messages from the first message through all responses. The messages of a Conversation have the same subject.

For example, when you send a message to someone and then they reply, a Conversation results. In many Conversations, there might be many replies back and forth. Multiple people might reply to different messages in the Conversation.

What does Conversation Clean Up do?

Conversation Clean Up analyses the contents of each message in the Conversation and if a message is completely contained within one of the replies, the previous message is deleted.

Consider the following example:

Bob sends a message to Alan and Nikki. Alan replies to both Bob and Nikki and in his Outlook message body, Bob’s complete original message is included. Now, Nikki sees Alan’s message and replies to both Bob and Alan. Nikki’s reply includes all of the previous messages in the Conversation. Conversation Clean Up can delete all of the messages except the last one from Nikki because within that message is a copy of all of the previous messages.

Conversation Clean Up is most useful on Conversations with many responses back and forth, especially with many recipients.

Remove redundant messages

On the Home tab, in the Delete group, click Clean Up.

Click one of the following:

  • Clean Up Conversation – The current Conversation is reviewed, and redundant messages are deleted.
  • Clean Up Folder – All Conversations in the selected folder are reviewed, and redundant messages are deleted.
  • Clean Up Folder & Subfolders – All Conversations in the selected folder and any folder that it contains are reviewed, and redundant messages are deleted.