Plugins to help Optimize & Cleanup WordPress (to make your host happy)

IN Marketing & Wordpress
  • Updated:7 years ago
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I had to make “Site5” happy, so recently, I’ve had to become a “master” of WordPress database cleanup & optimization. I could write a book on all the things I had to do to make them happy – but I’ll save that for another post so I can be more technical for advanced users – this post on the other hand, will identify the best WordPress plugins that I installed that actually made a huge difference to my out-of-control database, that can be used by almost anyone who has a logical mindset.

Before & After (Culling 300,000+ Tables in the database)

Just to give you an idea of the magnitude of how helpful these plugins will be to your wordpress “spring cleaning” – my database (of my largest website) started at: Size: 51.1MiB / Tables:322,533

And by the time I was finished, ended at: Size: 8.4 MiB / Tables: 32,935

Can you see the difference? Yes, you should be saying “WOW!” – I was able to cull – without any side-effects to my website whatsoever – over 40MB out of the database, and just under 300,000 tables – yes three hundred THOUSAND tables deleted that were no longer in use but were causing resources to be used on the server.

The problems & main culprits:

Here are the main problems/culprits that I’ll deal with today but there are heaps more that I’ll discuss in future (bad spiders, scrapers, spammers, hackers, people using your images, badly-written plugins, caching, and more) that can also cause high resource usage, and I had to deal with all of them for this particular site. But, to keep things simple in this post, and to make the most amount of difference on every site – the most common problems that you can start to fix in a few minutes from now, are the following:

  1. Many plugins do not clean up their database tables after you uninstall them. Plugin developers have the option to add it, but most of them choose not to – even the popular plugins that you feel “safe” with, rarely delete any of their left-over database tables after you have uninstalled & deleted a plugin. What you are left with is a bulked-up database full of tables that you no longer use.
  2. WordPress automatically saves revisions & drafts for you as you are writing new posts & pages, and keeps copies of these for you to go back to, if something happens (you have a power-outage, etc.) These “revisions” are no longer needed after you have published the “final” post, and all is well in the world. What you end up with is hundreds or thousands of extra posts/page copies that bulk-up your database.
  3. When you install & uninstall plugins, and even through daily use, your database needs to be Optimized on a regular basis. It helps you reclaim un-used space in the database which essentially reduces the size of your database, improves database performance, and helps your website run faster. I regularly go into my database (PhpMyAdmin) manually to repair & optimize my databases, but in this post, I’ll suggest a plugin.

If your host is threatening you because your site is using too many resources, then this post will help with the above main culprits… and at the very least, your site will definitely run faster after using these plugins:

Enjoy (and be careful) with the following plugins that have made the greatest impact for me:

(Note: I don’t use multisites, and I’m pretty sure that nothing I recommend will work with multisites)


WP Clean Up

Make sure you get the right one, there are 2 WP Cleanup’s, one that hasn’t been updated in over 2 years, and the other one, above, that is kept up-to-date with the latest versions of WordPress.


This one is fairly safe to use for beginners, it doesn’t generally pick up any real orphan options, at least – I haven’t noticed it picking up ANYTHING in the wp-options table (so it is unlikely that you will accidently delete something that will break your site). This one you would use on a fairly regular basis – i.e. everytime you do a new blog post, you can go into this and delete the revisions/drafts, etc. (that wordpress automatically creates as you are writing) as well as optimize some of the tables in the database.

Clean Options

This plugin hasn’t been updated since 2010, which is one of the reasons why it was one of the very last plugins I tried – but … it ended up being the absolute BEST plugin I’ve found for really culling down your database, it ROCKS my world. But – it is extremely dangerous for newbies to use – if you are not confident, you shouldn’t risk using this one – I would still be really nervous using this on client sites, but I was desperate for one of my sites to stop using so many resources so was willing to take a risk on my own site.

clean options

This plugin has the amazing ability to pickup what every other plugin seemed to miss/skip: left-over remnants of plugins in the “wp-options” table. Maybe the other plugins skip it because they don’t want to be responsible for people deleting the wrong thing and blaming them, but in any case, for me, this one was a life-saver.

When to use this:
Maybe as a once-every-3-month type of cleanup, unless you have been installing & uninstalling a lot of plugins lately. If you have been trialling different plugins lately – I would definitely be using this straight away.

It searches through your wp-options table (and the rest of your database) and finds remnants of plugins that “it thinks” they left behind.

errr… It “thinks”?
Unfortunately, it also picks-up some tables that your plugins might still use, so the caution that you have to take with this one, is to:

1.) Make sure you have a full backup of your website and database before you go crazy

2.) Look through every line and try and determine with your logic, whether you are likely to need it or not.

How? Well I look at every single line and if I see a plugin that I “know for a fact” that I have definitely deleted in the past, I can happily delete it. If I look at a line, and “know for a fact” that I still have that plugin installed, then I can make sure that I don’t delete it.

What Makes it Hard (and Tips)
What makes it hard:

Some plugins have completely un-determinable table names, where you cannot figure out which plugin it originated from. In some cases, I was able to “google” the table name and work out which plugin it belonged to, and in other cases, I just had to “leave it alone”. As a general rule, the first few letters (before the first underscore _), is related to the plugin in some way, but sometimes they are “after” the underscore).

If you look at the screenshot above, there is one called “relevanssi_index”. I know that I have Relevanssi search plugin installed, so I know to leave that one alone, in fact, I’m leaving all of those alone. On my other site, however, I was able to delete thousands.


You might also notice a lot of “_transient_” tables – these are usually “temporary” data that you probably don’t need to worry about (unless you have hundreds of them). If you notice that you have ‘a worrying amount’ of them, then you need to look at what is causing them – it could be wordpress rss feeds, it could be your cache system, facebook comments, theme options, etc. or – it could be something that you no-longer need, in which case, deleting that plugin should solve the problem. In any case, they are generally safe to delete because most of the time, they will just be “re-created” again from whatever the source is, however I have found that it’s a “bad idea” to delete the ones relating to my theme – I had to resetup all my theme options again when I did this.

Backup to easily do a database restore if needed

Sometimes, particularly with my “problem site”, I would just go on a culling spree and delete things anyway – I was absolutely desperate to get my database size down so I was “taking a risk” on some of them, but I had the safety of knowing that I had a full backup each time. So I would delete like 100 lines at a time, then check my site for errors, then do another backup, and go on another culling spree.  test again, backup again. Each time, I would paste what I deleted into editpad “just in case” I needed to know which files caused an error so that I can remember not to delete them a 2nd time around, however it turned out that I didn’t need to do a database restore. It took forever, but it was the safest way to do it, and it was so worth it.

If your database is out of control, this might be the only plugin that saves the day, so even though it’s dangerous in the wrong hands – it is necessary that I include this plugin here because this plugin could be the difference between keeping your host happy on your current plan or moving to a more expensive plan/host.

This plugin alone, was responsible for most of the difference in database & tables because I was already deleting my revisions and optimizing my database on a regular basis. If you haven’t been deleting your revisions or optimizing your database, then you will see a huge improvement just by adding that to your regular things to do.

Backup your website

Backup Creator

There are plenty of free and premium backup plugins – hundreds of them. And I’ve used most of them. But this is the one that makes me feel safe and secure. The reason? I have successfully migrated sites that were not able to be migrated with any other plugin/backup system.

I paid for premium plugins like BackupBuddy and Wp-Twin, and I used most of the freely available backup plugins on WordPress, but the only thing that worked for my large sites, was Backup Creator, so now – even though their support are a bit abrupt, I exclusively use this one now for all my sites.

backup creator
backup creator

It is super simple to setup, and super simple to use. I’ve bragged about this plugin on many forum sites and in many discussions on LinkedIn.

It allows me to backup automatically to:

  • Amazon S3
  • Email
  • FTP

And… drumroll please.. it allows me to migrate to other servers… WITHOUT HAVING TO DOWNLOAD the backup file. Yes, you read it right. It will allow you to download a tiny little plugin file, that you install on the other site – and it will install the backup file for you “server to server”. This saves me SO much time, I mean hours and hours of time and frustration. It’s unbelievable. And I can restore a file directly from ftp or Amazon too.

The best part about it is that I can quickly do a backup before using the above “scary” plugin, on-the-fly with one click, and know that if anything falls-down, that within 1 click, I can have my site backup and working within a couple of minutes.

Why am I recommending this in a wordpress optimization post? Because if you are like me, and want to use the above plugins but you don’t have a wordpress backup plugin in place, you are going to be tempted to just use the plugins and “risk” it anyway… and I want to make sure that you do not attempt to do that.

Make sure you backup your database before deleting database tables.

Penny (
Penny (

Truth-seeker, ever-questioning, ever-learning, ever-researching, ever delving further and deeper, ever trying to 'figure it out'. This site is a legacy of sorts, a place to collect thoughts, notes, book summaries, & random points of interests.


  1. I am continually searching online for posts that can benefit me. Thank you!

  2. Harley Schott says:

    Thanks! My host is killing me and I’ve tried everything too or so I thought. I’ve been browsing sites today trying to find anything new that I can try and NONE of any other sites that I read have recommended either of those plugins and I’d not heard of either of them before, so thank you I’m going to try them now and see if I can save my site. I already think I’ve deleted revisions but I definitely haven’t tried Clean Options. b.t.w I’m absolutely enjoying everything I see on your knowledge-base too and look forward to new updates.

    1. Be sure to checkout my latest post as well – I just put together a checklist of over 100 things you can do if your site is threatened by high resource/cpu usage (and you have wordpress). (You can also download my quick n dirty spreadsheet that has the entire checklist so you can print it off and go through everything without having to be on my site)

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