Ask LH: How Can I Get Away From Annoying Forwarded Emails?

Ask LH: How Can I Get Away From Annoying Forwarded Emails?

Dear Lifehacker, I have a few friends and relatives that are hell bent on forwarding me every joke, cat picture or political rant that comes into their email inbox, and it’s getting really annoying. I’ve asked them to stop, but some of them still persist. Is there a way I can just send them automatically to the trash? Sincerely, Frustrating Forwards

Dear Frustrating,

You aren’t the only one. If you’ve asked them to stop and they haven’t, I’d shoot them another message before you do anything else. Politely tell them that you try to reserve your email for important things and having all those forwards is making it difficult to manage the stuff that actually matters, and that your friends shouldn’t be ignoring your wishes. That said, you can save yourself a lot of problems by just filtering out those messages. Here’s how to do it in Gmail, but the general process should work with nearly any email service.

  1. Go to Gmail’s settings and click on “Filters”. Click the “Create a New Filter” link at the bottom.
  2. In the “Subject” box, type fwd OR fw. This will ensure that the filter catches any forwarded message.
  3. If you only have a few people that forward you annoying messages, you can put their names in the “From” box. For example, if it were my two coworkers that sent me annoying forwards, I’d put [email protected] OR [email protected]. This helps ensure that useful forwarded messages don’t get filtered out.
  4. Click Continue. Check the “Skip Inbox” box and then check the “Apply Label” box. I have a label specifically for email forwards just called “Forwards”.
  5. Click “Create”.

Now, any forwarded messages from those people will not appear in your inbox, they’ll just appear under the “Forwards” label. You could send them automatically to the trash instead, but this is a safer option. You don’t want to automatically delete any useful forwards. For example, I regularly have my friends forward me travel itineraries when they visit and other things like that. I don’t want those going straight to the trash.

Now, you just need to occasionally check the label and delete the messages you don’t want. The label should let you know when it has new messages, so you won’t forget to check it periodically. It isn’t the perfect solution — that would be getting your friends and family to stop the forwards altogether — but it saves you a lot of hassle in the long run if they’re particularly stubborn. Good luck!


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  • I dont’ mind funny pictures forwarded to me, but the worst offenders are the ones that forward useless lies/myths/rumours without a simple fact check.

    The quickest way to get them to stop after they ignore your pleas is to start sending them some references from snopes and wiki abotu why the thing they sent is bullshit, if they keep doing it then you escalate it by hitting reply-all when you fact check them.

    You will only have to do it once.

  • I used to get stupid cat videos from people I work with all the time. Just reply with UNSUBSCRIBE, everytime you get an email from them. They get the picture pretty quickly…..

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