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How to clean up a WordPress site

How to Clean Up a WordPress Site (11 Expert Tips) 

Written By: author image Joella Dunn
author image Joella Dunn
Joella is a writer with years of experience in WordPress. At Duplicator, she specializes in site maintenance — from basic backups to large-scale migrations. Her ultimate goal is to make sure your WordPress website is safe and ready for growth.
     Reviewed By: John Turner
reviewer image John Turner
John Turner is the President of Duplicator. He has over 20+ years of business and development experience and his plugins have been downloaded over 25 million times.

Want to learn how to clean up your WordPress site?

Over time, the installation of new themes, plugins, and media files can slow down your WordPress site and compromise its security. With consistent cleanups, you’ll enjoy a faster, more secure, and better-performing website. 

In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to clean up a WordPress website, step by step!

Why You Should Consider Cleaning Up Your WordPress Site

To make your website unique, you install new themes, try out various plugins, and upload countless images. Your once-sleek site becomes sluggish, taking forever to load. Visitors get impatient and leave before experiencing the great content you have to offer. 

That’s when you realize your website needs a cleanup. 

After deleting spammed comments, media files, and inactive plugins, your site becomes lightning-fast. Visitors will be happier, and search engines like Google will give your site a boost in SEO.

With fewer WordPress themes and plugins to manage, you’ll have more time to create amazing content and engage with your audience. Plus, performing backups becomes a breeze without all that unnecessary data weighing you down.

Here are some more benefits of cleaning up your WordPress site:

  • Enhanced security: Outdated themes, plugins, and WordPress core software can pose security issues. When you regularly clean up and update your site, you ensure that you’re using the latest security patches. 
  • Improve user experience: By cleaning up your site, you can declutter the interface, organize content, and create a more intuitive user experience. This can lead to increased engagement, longer visit durations, and higher conversion rates.
  • Reduce disk space and bandwidth usage: Removing redundant files, such as old images and attachments, can free up storage space and reduce the amount of data transferred between your server and visitors. 

How to Clean Up a WordPress Site

Cleaning up your website is an important maintenance task that will help your site look and perform at its highest level. Let’s show you how to get started with your first site cleanup!

1. Remove Inactive Plugins and Themes

WordPress has a huge plugin and theme repository, so you may find yourself installing a lot of new software over the years. Although this can make your site more flexible and functional, you probably aren’t using all of these tools. 

Each new plugin and theme adds additional code and files that need to be processed when a user visits your web pages. Even if they’re not active, themes and plugins can slow down your website’s loading speed and consume server resources. 

By removing inactive plugins and themes, you can streamline your website’s performance and create a more efficient browsing experience for your visitors. Plus, you’ll optimize your WordPress dashboard.

To clean up your plugins, go to the Plugins page and select all the inactive ones. Then, delete them using the Bulk Actions dropdown menu:

Delete inactive plugins

To clean up your site in a safe environment, consider migrating it to a local server. Using a migration plugin like Duplicator, you can quickly transfer your files and database without any data loss:

Duplicator Pro plugin

Duplicator works by creating a package of your current site. This can then be saved as a backup or moved to a new location.

When you build a package, you can decide to only include active plugins and themes. This way, you’ll only migrate your necessary tools:

Back up active plugins and themes

As Duplicator makes a copy of your site, it’ll exclude any inactive tools. Whenever you restore this backup file or migrate it, your new website won’t have unnecessary plugins and themes anymore.

If you’re worried about losing functionality from removing plugins, consider using WPCode. This plugin has a wide variety of code snippets that are designed to add custom features to your website:

WP Code plugin

Using WPCode, you’ll replace many different plugins with custom code snippets. You won’t have to worry about extra bulk or compatibility issues from having too many plugins installed on your site. 

2. Optimize Website Backups

As a website owner, you won’t want to lose your hard-earned data to hacks or server errors. For this reason, it’s important to consistently back up your site.

By default, many WordPress backup plugins will store copies of your site on the same server. However, this can actually slow down your loading speed, especially if you have large backup files.

To optimize your site backups, consider sending them off-site to cloud storage. By connecting your website to an external service like Google Drive, your backups will always be safe from server errors. Plus, you won’t have to worry about straining your server resources.

With Duplicator Pro, you can use all of the following cloud storage services as backup locations:

If you want to optimize your backups even more, you can create automatic backups for specific data. For example, you could create separate backups for the database, Media Library, all of your WordPress files, or a completely custom set of data:

Custom backup schedules

To do this, add a new schedule and click on the + icon to create a new package template:

Create new backup template

On the new page, select the custom components you want to include in the backup. To optimize even a full backup, you could remove the Other option to exclude any non-WordPress files from the root directory. Plus, consider only backing up active plugins and themes:

Optimized site backup template

Once you customize a template, go back to the new schedule and select it. Then, choose a storage location and a time for the backup to run:

Duplicator automatic backup schedule

Continue creating as many automatic schedules as you want. You can back up specific parts of your website at different intervals, so you always have the right data saved. 

Custom WordPress backup schedules

3. Perform Software Updates

One of the main reasons to perform updates is to enhance the security of your WordPress site. Updates often include fixes for identified vulnerabilities and security loopholes.

By keeping your WordPress core, themes, and plugins up to date, you ensure that your site is equipped with the latest security measures. This will reduce the risk of unauthorized access, data breaches, or malicious attacks.

Developers constantly work on improving their products, and updates often include bug fixes and performance enhancements. These improvements can lead to faster loading times, reduced resource consumption, and improved overall site performance. 

On your dashboard’s Updates page, you’ll see if you need to update WordPress core, along with any plugins and themes:

Update WordPress software

Before any update, be sure to create a full backup of your website. Since software updates can cause conflicts and bugs, you may want to try it out on a staging site first. If everything works correctly, feel free to update your live site. 

4. Optimize Your Media Library

Another way to clean up a WordPress site is by optimizing its media files. This involves compressing, organizing, and decluttering all of the images, videos, and other media files stored on your site. 

Many site owners have a huge backlog of unoptimized files in their Media Library. By compressing them and deleting duplicate media files, you can successfully improve your site organization and performance. 

To start optimizing your images, you can download your entire Media Library. With Duplicator, simply create a new package and choose the Media Only option:

Duplicator media backup

This will compile your images, videos, documents, and other media files into a single zip file. After you finish building the package, hit Download » Archive (zip):

Download media library backup

Then, you’ll have a full copy of your Media Library. To optimize your images, you can run them through an image optimization tool like TinyPNG. You could also consider migrating them to a Content Delivery Network (CDN). 

Once you’re finished, you’ll be able to easily re-upload images back to your site. Simply go to Duplicator Pro » Import and drag and drop your media-only backup into the import box:

Import website archive

Duplicator will then overwrite your existing Media Library with the optimized version:

Install media library

To clean up your Media Library even further, Media Cleaner can help you delete any unused media files. It’ll scan for files that aren’t used in any posts or pages on your site:

Media Cleaner plugin

Now you won’t have to worry about images or other media files slowing down your website!

5. Clean Up Your Database

Over time, your WordPress database gathers post revisions, spam comments, and unused plugin data. By cleaning up unnecessary data, you can reduce your database size and optimize query execution, resulting in faster loading times and a more responsive website.

Even if you don’t have technical expertise, you can easily clean up your WordPress database. WP-Sweep is a database cleaner plugin that can help you effortlessly declutter auto drafts, orphaned user meta, unapproved comments, and more:

WP-Sweep plugin

First, go to Tools » Sweep. Here, WP-Sweep will show you which data should be swept on your website. You can clean your database by clicking the Sweep button next to each value:

Sweep website data

Alternatively, you can scroll to the bottom of the page and hit Sweep All. WP-Sweep will use WordPress delete functions to remove any unnecessary data from your database. 

6. Update User Information

Often, user management can be easily overlooked in favor of updating plugins or performing backups. However, this can lead to big security risks.

Inactive accounts can become targets for hackers or malicious users trying to gain control of your website. By regularly cleaning up user accounts, you minimize vulnerabilities and enhance the overall security of your WordPress site.

The first thing you’ll need to do is go through all the users for your site. Delete any old users who no longer need access to your WordPress back-end:

Delete inactive WordPress users

It’s also important to update user permissions. This way, the wrong people won’t have unauthorized access to your site. 

If you need to update a user role, select the user and use the Change role to dropdown menu. Here, you can instantly upgrade or downgrade a specific user:

Update WordPress user roles

Using Duplicator Pro, you can also control which users can create backups, manage cloud storage locations, and perform other maintenance tasks. To do this, head over to Duplicator Pro » Settings » Access:

Duplicator granular capabilities

You’ll see a list of Duplicator’s main features, which include building and importing packages, managing automatic schedules, and restoring backups. These are automatically set to the Administrator role, but you could limit them to a specific user if you’d like:

Manage schedule access

Using these advanced permissions, you can prevent someone from accidentally overwriting your website. Plus, it can keep your third-party cloud storage information secret from general users. You can even completely remove Duplicator from other users’ dashboards so they can’t create a copy of your site

When users visit your website, they expect to find valuable content. If they encounter broken links, they may assume your site is outdated, untrustworthy, or poorly maintained. 

Fortunately, broken links are easy to fix. To get started, install the Broken Link Checker plugin. Rather than having to manually check your site for 404 errors, this tool will automatically scan for them:

AIOSEO Broken Link Checker plugin

After installing the plugin, you’ll see a list of your site’s broken links:

Website broken links

To fix broken links, simply click on Edit URL. Then, redirect it to a functioning link:

Update broken link

Broken Link Checker allows you to recheck the link after you’ve updated it. You can also remove the link altogether if needed. 

8. Remove Spam Comments

Even if you have a smaller WordPress blog, you’ll probably still have to deal with comment spam. When you leave the comments section open, spambots will post off-topic messages that can contain malicious content. This can leave both you and your real visitors vulnerable to malware.

There are many preventative measures you can take to combat comment spam in WordPress. However, a few comments will likely slip through the cracks. 

Because of this, it’s important to moderate your comments. In your WordPress dashboard, you can approve messages from real users. All other comments can be marked as spam or deleted:

Manage WordPress comments

If there are too many comments to moderate yourself, WP Bulk Delete can help. This free plugin was designed for bulk managing WordPress comments, posts, pages, and more:

WP Bulk Delete plugin

Before using WP Bulk Delete, be sure to back up your site. Then, find the Delete Comments page. Here, you’ll be able to delete all comments with a certain status:

Bulk delete comments

Once you go through your pending queue and approve real comments, you can go ahead and check the Pending Comments status. Then, scroll down and hit Delete Comments. This will remove any new spam left on your site. 

9. Review Your Content

If your WordPress blog has been live for years, you might have a huge backlog of old posts. Without regular maintenance, your content could become disorganized and outdated. This could hurt your site’s performance and user experience.

In a content audit, you’ll review and assess all content on your site. The ultimate goal is to improve its quality and relevance.

Here are some helpful tasks you can do in a content audit:

  • Delete outdated, irrelevant, or duplicate content
  • Consolidate similar content into one post so it ranks better
  • Evaluate and optimize keywords, meta tags, and internal linking for SEO
  • Review auto drafts
  • Delete unused tags

Using an analytics plugin like MonsterInsights, you can keep track of which content gets the most page views, visitors, and conversions. You’ll have all the data you need to decide what to keep, update, or delete altogether:

MonsterInsights top posts and pages report

By regularly conducting content audits, you’ll maintain a well-organized, relevant, and high-performing WordPress blog!

10. Upgrade Your Web Host

Even after you’ve gotten rid of unnecessary plugins, optimized images, and streamlined your code, your website still may load slowly. If you still notice performance issues, you may need to upgrade your web hosting plan.

With a shared hosting plan, your site shares server resources with other sites, which can lead to sluggish performance during peak traffic times. Additionally, some hosting providers may not offer the necessary resources or optimization tools to ensure your WordPress site runs at its best.

To address these issues, it’s important to invest in a high-quality WordPress hosting provider. This will often give you performance improvements, security measures, and expert support. A WordPress hosting plan is optimized for the platform’s specific requirements, leading to much faster loading speeds.

If you’re not sure where to start, check out this guide on how to choose the best WordPress hosting. When you’re ready, you can migrate your current website to the new host.

11. Install a Caching Plugin

When someone accesses your website, their browser will have to request information from your database. A caching plugin will save a copy of your website during this first visit, avoiding the need to fetch resources on repeat visits.

WP Rocket is the best WordPress caching plugin. It will speed up your website by applying page caching, GZIP compression, cache preloading, and code modification.

WP Rocket

Plus, you can easily integrate a third-party Content Delivery Network (CDN) into the WP Rocket dashboard. This will give you everything you need to clean up your website and keep it loading quickly!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I delete unnecessary files in WordPress?

You can delete unnecessary files in WordPress by installing cleaner plugins like WP-Sweep or Media Cleaner. If you want to optimize your backups or clean up your site during a migration, Duplicator Pro can help. Using this plugin, you can create a custom copy of your site that excludes any unnecessary plugins, themes, or extra files. 

What is taking up space on my WordPress site?

Images, videos, themes, plugins, and custom web fonts can take up a lot of space on your WordPress site. You can easily check the size of this data by looking at the Site Health page on your dashboard.

WordPress site health

How do I optimize my existing website?

You can optimize your existing website by removing inactive plugins and themes, saving backups off-site to reduce strain on your server, and compressing the images in your Media Library. Additionally, you may want to fix broken links, perform updates, clean up your database, delete inactive users, and remove spam comments. 

If you’re still struggling with slow page speed, you may need to find a new web hosting plan. The right WordPress hosting provider can significantly boost site performance by ensuring faster page load times and minimizing downtime.

What is the best WordPress cleanup plugin?

In our opinion, here are the best WordPress cleanup plugins:

  • WP-Sweep: a free database cleanup plugin
  • Media Cleaner: a powerful plugin for optimizing the Media Library
  • WPCode: the best code snippets plugin for reducing overall plugin use
  • Duplicator Pro: a WordPress backup and migration plugin that allows you to create copies of your site without unnecessary plugins, themes, and other data

Alternatives: WP-Optimize is another popular WordPress plugin designed to clean up database tables, minify CSS and JavaScript, and apply GZIP compression of HTML pages. If you need to delete post revisions, orphan post meta items, and spam comments, you can use Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions.  

How do I free up space on WordPress?

You can free up disk space in WordPress by compressing images, optimizing your media library, removing inactive plugins and themes, and deleting draft posts and pages. For more tips, check out this guide on how to free up disk space and reduce inode usage in WordPress.

How do I wipe my WordPress site clean?

You can wipe your site clean if you want to repurpose the website or if you’re just experimenting with WordPress. But first, we’d recommend backing up your current website just in case you ever need any of its files. Then, use the WP Reset plugin to revert your site to a default WordPress installation.

If you’ve just been hacked, there are other solutions. We’d recommend restoring a backup so that you don’t lose any important data.

Conclusion

That’s it! Now you know how to clean up a WordPress site.

While you’re here, you may also like these WordPress tutorials and plugin reviews:

Want to clean up your backups and optimize your site during a migration? Download Duplicator Pro to easily create custom copies of your WordPress data!

author avatar
Joella Dunn Content Writer
Joella is a writer with years of experience in WordPress. At Duplicator, she specializes in site maintenance — from basic backups to large-scale migrations. Her ultimate goal is to make sure your WordPress website is safe and ready for growth.

Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. We only recommend products that we believe will add value to our readers.