ActiveCampaign Forum

Wondering about the implications of deleting a "list"

Hi there,

I have a number of old “lists” that I was actually using as a segmenting tool more than anything. In an effort to do some housekeeping, I’d like to get rid of these extra lists. All of the contacts on these extra lists are also on other lists that I will be keeping. So my question is, if I delete a list, what happens to all the contacts on that deleted list? If the contact is also on another list, will they be deleted? If the contact is ONLY on the deleted list, will they be deleted?


Contacts ONLY on that List being deleted will also be deleted. Contacts that are on that List and any other Lists, will remain in the system…but have that List removed from their Contact record as being deleted.

All Campaigns, Reports and Segments for that List will also be deleted.


1 Like

So if we want to delete a list, we will loose the email, data and anything else connected to a campaign that used that list? While we may not need to retain who opened an old email, we do like to keep track of how many emails we send out, what kind they were etc.

We also segment lists to send messages to different regions, etc. Over time the list itself is outdated and useless, but the record of the email is still valid. Why do you need to delete the existence of the email, just because the list is gone? You could even save open rates and other data, separate from the actual people on the list. Maybe you could let us archive a list so it keeps data for the emails but it doesn’t clutter up our active list???

1 Like

Does a Contact need to be on 1 or more lists to exist in my AC database? In all other marketing automation products I’ve used Lists have no impact on the actual Contact record but this seems unclear with AC.

If I delete a list I assume it WILL NOT 100% remove a contact from AC meaning I can still locate them in the Contacts section.

I’d love to get a confirmation on this.


Hi @feedotter258,

If you delete a contact from the “Contacts” section that will delete the contact completely.

However, if you go to “Lists” and the specific list you want to delete you can bulk remove contacts from a specific list. This will remove the selected contacts just from that specific list only.

You can also remove (unsubscribe) a single contact from a list by going into the contact record. This will remove the single contact from that specific list only as well.

Hope this helps!


I’ve just gone through this process of deleting lists and will add what I learned… Please note that I’m an AC customer and not an employee. Also, always backup your contacts before making material changes.

When you delete a list, there are two possible outcomes for each contact on that list. First, if the contact is subscribed to one or more other lists, the contact will remain a contact in your account and the list you are deleting will be detached from their contact record.

Second, if the contact is only subscribed to one list and it’s the list that you are deleting, then this contact will be completely removed from the contact database in your account.

Now, for those contacts who are only on the list you are about to delete you can do a couple things. Before you delete the list you can perform an edit that removes them from the list (though I tend to think of removing the list from the contact). The challenge with this is that they and any others that you manually remove or “unsubscribe” from the list will be marked in AC as having been “unsubscribed” and it might lead you to think that they actually unsubscribed from a campaign email. When you go this route, you will end up with a group of contacts who are presently NOT subscribed to any list at all.

What I did, since I was actually consolidating lists, was that I identified those contacts who were on the list to be deleted and not on any other list and then I added them to another list in bulk edit before I then deleted the other list. What this step did was to make sure that everyone on the list to be deleted were also on another list such that I didn’t have to unsubscribe them prior to list deletion and their contacts records weren’t deleted because I had just added them to another list.

I hope that isn’t too confusing. It’s certainly less confusion that the message you get from AC as you are deleting a list which says that all contacts on that list will be deleted. This message isn’t accurate. It needs to be changed to say that only those contacts who are subscribed to only that list and no other list will be deleted. They could also add something to say that any contacts on one or more other lists will not be deleted.

1 Like

Wow, just learned the hard way that if you delete a list, then all the past email campaigns that were sent to that list will also be deleted.

Honestly that’s the stupidest thing ever. Be warned people and pay attention to this!

1 Like

Hi Perry - when you remove bulk contacts from a list, won’t it actually mark them all as “unsubscribed”? This is the issue I’m having with Active Campaign. I moved over from Ontraport and mistakenly kept a few lists thinking that they worked similarly to Ontraport where you can move someone on and off a list and it doesn’t impact the contact record - it’s just an organising system like groups. I hate that lists in Active Campaign are so rigid so now realise I have to work with tagging. But the issue I have is that I want to clean up lists and I don’t want contracts marked as “unsubscribed” if I remove them from a list and they are still on other lists. Am I right in thinking if I do this bulk removal two things will happen:

  1. Any people who are not on another list (shouldn’t happen but maybe I’ve missed some) will be deleted for good.
  2. any that are on another list will be categorised as “unsubscribed” re their status and I can never change that, even if they are still subscribed to other main lists. Or if I am wrong and they don’t get marked as unsubscribed when I bulk remove contacts from a list then that is great. SO happy to be proven wrong!

But if I’m right, It just makes it harder for me to search on “true” unsubscribes later to clean up my list and have to do all these annoying workarounds and filters to actually delete my true unsubscribes and not accidentally delete valid contacts. I think the way lists are handled is really not user-friendly but it seems it will never change.

Also the fact that any emails etc that are associated with a list get deleted when you delete a list is just archaic. I guess I’ll never delete a list just archive or name it Zlist to get it to move to the bottom of the list of lists! Thanks… sorry for the rant!