Unraveling Visible (and Hidden) Email Rules: Mastering Outlook’s /cleanrules Command

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Email is an essential communication tool for both personal and professional use. However, amidst the influx of emails, we often find ourselves struggling to manage our overflowing inboxes. One tool for managing our email is the use of rules, but these rules themselves can cause their own set of issues.

Understanding Email Rules (Visible or not)

Email rules are automated instructions that dictate how your inbox handles incoming messages. They can automatically sort emails into folders, mark them as read, forward them to another recipient, or perform a variety of other actions. While many rules are set up intentionally by users, hidden rules can appear seemingly out of nowhere, causing confusion and disorder.

Recently I was assisting a user in repairing issues caused by the hacking of their 365 account and email.  During the process I discovered the hacker had deployed “hidden rules” that were not visible to Outlook, OWA nor to Powershell (unless you use the option -includehidden applied to the Get-InboxRule cmdlet).

Introducing Outlook’s /cleanrules Command

Microsoft Outlook, one of the most popular email clients, offers a powerful tool to combat hidden email rules. The /cleanrules command allows users to reset and remove ALL existing rules within Outlook, client-side and server-side rules. By executing this command, you can start fresh, eliminating any hidden or visible rules that may be causing chaos in your inbox.

Using /cleanrules to Remove Rules

Before proceeding with the /cleanrules command, it’s important to note that it will remove all rules, including both visible and hidden ones. Therefore, it’s advisable to take note of your existing rules and save any important ones before executing the command. Also, it will remove these rules for any mailbox that the current Outlook profile accesses so be careful.  Note also that running the /cleanrules option removes the rules permanently, even after a restart of Outlook.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use the /cleanrules command in Outlook

  1. Review and document any rules you may want to recreate after this process is completed.
  2. Close Microsoft Outlook and ensure it’s not running in the background.
  3. Press the “Windows Key + R” to open the Run dialog box.
  4. Type “outlook.exe /cleanrules” (without the quotation marks) in the Run dialog box and press Enter.
  5. Wait for Outlook to launch. You will see a notification stating that all rules have been removed.
  6. Go to the “Rules” tab in Outlook and start recreating your desired rules from scratch.

By using the /cleanrules command, you can effectively reset your Outlook rules and regain control of your email organization. Remember to recreate any necessary rules manually to restore your preferred email management system.


Hidden email rules can disrupt our email management and lead to chaos in our inboxes. However, with Outlook’s /cleanrules command, we have a powerful tool at our disposal to remove both visible and hidden rules and start afresh. By understanding the impact of hidden rules and utilizing the /cleanrules command effectively, we can streamline our email workflows, increase productivity, and ensure that important messages never go unnoticed. Take control of your inbox today and bid farewell to hidden email rules with Outlook’s /cleanrules command!

Have any other questions about using Outlook or Microsoft 365? Please reach out to one of our experts at any time!

This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. In addition, this publication may contain certain content generated by an artificial intelligence (AI) language model. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.


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