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Top Excel Data Cleansing Techniques

Data cleansing is an important activity within Excel and one that we find ourselves doing day in... read more

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John Michaloudis
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Top Excel Data cleansing

Data cleansing is an important activity within Excel and one that we find ourselves doing day in day out, sometimes without even knowing it.

In this tutorial, you will learn the Top 8 Techniques on Data Cleaning in Excel!

So what is data cleansing?

In the words of Oz du Soleil, Excel MVP, it is like “Hercules being sent out to capture the three-headed dog that guards the entrance to hell!”

So you can see that Oz sees that data cleansing is hard work but one that needs to be done in order to succeed in Excel.

We get thrown data at us from external accounting systems, ERPs or downloads from the company server and most of the time it is not imported in an Excel friendly way.  This is where you and I come in to clean the data!
​You can listen to our podcast episode which was highly entertaining and full of golden nuggets by clicking on below’s image and further down I will show you the My Top Data Cleansing Techniques, which include the ones that Oz uses:

Unpivot Data Using Excel Power Query

1. Unpivot Data

Power Query is a free add-in created by Microsoft for Excel 2010 (or later) and you can download and install it for Excel 2010 and 2013 here:

See also  Go To Blanks

Download Power Query here 

How to Install Power Query 2010 here

How to Install Power Query 2013 here

In Excel 2016 it comes built in the Ribbon menu under the Data tab and within the Get & Transform group.

Power Query allows you to extract data from any source, clean and transform the data and then load it to another sheet within Excel, Power Pivot or the Power BI Designer canvas.

One of the best features is to Unpivot Columns.

What that does is transforms columns with similar characteristics (e.g. Jan, Feb, March…) and puts them in a unique column or tabular format (e.g. Month), which then allows you to do further analysis using Pivot Tables which was not possible before unpivoting.

Watch Data Cleaning in Excel on YouTube and give it a thumbs-up!

Top Excel Data Cleansing Techniques | MyExcelOnline

Follow the tutorial on Data Cleaning in Excel and download this Excel workbook to practice along:

2. Find & Replace

The Find & Replace feature or CTRL+H shortcut allows you to amend your data in seconds. Imagine you had thousands of rows of data that was downloaded from an external system with the wrong date.

A simple CTRL+H will save you heaps of time!  See how below.


Top Excel Data Cleansing Techniques | MyExcelOnline

Download this Excel workbook to practice along:

3. Find Errors with Go to Special Constants

Say you have a data set and want to make sure that each column contains what it is supposed to.

For example, say you have a column which contains Dates and you want to check that there are no cells which contain Text.

You can easily check this by highlighting that column and pressing CTRL+G to bring up the Go To dialogue box (or by choosing from the menu Home > Find & Select > Go To…)

Then you need to choose Special > Constants and select the constant that you want to find in your column.

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In our example you will need to only select the Text box and de-select the other boxes and press OK.  This will highlight the cells that contain text and you can begin to format these cells.

Top Excel Data Cleansing Techniques | MyExcelOnline

Watch the Excel data cleaning tutorial on YouTube and download this Excel workbook to practice along:

4. Find Blank Cells In Excel With A Color

In Excel you can have a data set that comes from an external source which isn’t always formatted to your liking.

One of the most common things you may encounter are blank cells in your Excel data which can hinder your analysis, especially if you are using a Pivot Table to analyze the data.

To find these annoying blank cells in Excel you will need to highlight all your data set (CTRL+*) and bring up the Go To shortcut:  CTRL+G > Special > Blanks.

Then you can fill in the blank cells with a color red and filter by that same color to drill down to these blank cells and take some formatting action.

Top Excel Data Cleansing Techniques | MyExcelOnline

Practice this excel data cleaning tutorial by downloading the Excel Workbook:
Add Hyphens To Serial Numbers Using Excel Flash Fill

5. Remove Duplicates in an Excel Table

When you have duplicates values within your Excel Table there is a quick and easy way to remove those values.

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The duplicate values could be all over your Excel Table and sometimes it takes valuable time trying to locate those duplicates and then deleting them.

Not to worry, Remove Duplicates to the rescue!

STEP 1: Click inside your Excel Table and select Table Tools > Design > Remove Duplicates

STEP 2: This will bring up the Remove Duplicates dialogue box.  Select only the Column box that contains the duplicates that you want to remove and press OK

Top Excel Data Cleansing Techniques | MyExcelOnline

6. Text To Columns: Dates

Whenever you download data from an external ERP system like Oracle, SAP, etc, you can have data that is not formatted the way you and Excel likes.

Sometimes “Date” values are downloaded as “Text”, so you cannot sort in the periodic date format.

No worries!  Text to Columns to the rescue!

Below I show you how to convert this “Text” data into “Excel friendly” data.  Download the workbook to practice this cool trick!

NB: If the dates are not converting properly after you do the Text to Columns, it may be that your computer’s Region formats need changing.

Go to the Region settings in your Control Panel and make sure that the Short Date is in this format: dd/MM/yyyy

Top Excel Data Cleansing Techniques | MyExcelOnline

7. Using Formulas To Clean Data

There are several formulas that you can use to clean up dirty, inconsistent and wayward data.  Below are some of the best formulas that you can use:

See also  Conditional Format a Cell´s Value


Top Excel Data cleansing

data cleaning in excel

Top Excel Data cleansing

Top Excel Data cleansing

Top Excel Data cleansing

Top Excel Data cleansing

8. Excel Add-Ins

Here are some great Excel Add-Ins that will help you clean up your messed up data with a press of a button, so no need to write any formulas:

Power Query for Excel



So there you are, these are just a few data cleansing techniques that you can apply to your data today.  Join me and Oz in this Free Power Query & Data Cleansing Webinar to learn some more techniques now:
VLOOKUP Example: Vlookup with a Drop Down List
This completes our tutorial on how to clean data in Excel. What is your favorite data cleansing technique?  Let me know by commenting below 🙂


Make sure to download our FREE PDF on the 333 Excel keyboard Shortcuts here:

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Founder & Chief Inspirational Officer at

John Michaloudis is a former accountant and finance analyst at General Electric, a Microsoft MVP since 2020, an Amazon #1 bestselling author of 4 Microsoft Excel books and teacher of Microsoft Excel & Office over at his flagship Academy Online Course.

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