Remove all child elements of a DOM node in JavaScript


How would I go about removing all of the child elements of a DOM node in JavaScript?

Say I have the following (ugly) HTML:

<p id="foo">
    <span>hello</span>
    <div>world</div>
</p>

And I grab the node I want like so:

var myNode = document.getElementById("foo");

How could I remove the children of foo so that just <p id="foo"></p> is left?

Could I just do:

myNode.childNodes = new Array();

or should I be using some combination of removeElement?

I'd like the answer to be straight up DOM; though extra points if you also provide an answer in jQuery along with the DOM-only answer.

Option 1 A: Clearing innerHTML.

  • This approach is simple, but might not be suitable for high-performance applications because it invokes the browser's HTML parser (though browsers may optimize for the case where the value is an empty string).

doFoo.onclick = () => {
  const myNode = document.getElementById("foo");
  myNode.innerHTML = '';
}
<div id='foo' style="height: 100px; width: 100px; border: 1px solid black;">
  <span>Hello</span>
</div>
<button id='doFoo'>Remove via innerHTML</button>

Option 1 B: Clearing textContent

  • As above, but use .textContent. According to MDN this will be faster than innerHTML as browsers won't invoke their HTML parsers and will instead immediately replace all children of the element with a single #text node.

doFoo.onclick = () => {
  const myNode = document.getElementById("foo");
  myNode.textContent = '';
}
<div id='foo' style="height: 100px; width: 100px; border: 1px solid black;">
  <span>Hello</span>
</div>
<button id='doFoo'>Remove via textContent</button>

Option 2 A: Looping to remove every lastChild:

  • An earlier edit to this answer used firstChild, but this is updated to use lastChild as in computer-science, in general, it's significantly faster to remove the last element of a collection than it is to remove the first element (depending on how the collection is implemented).
  • The loop continues to check for firstChild just in case it's faster to check for firstChild than lastChild (e.g. if the element list is implemented as a directed linked-list by the UA).

doFoo.onclick = () => {
  const myNode = document.getElementById("foo");
  while (myNode.firstChild) {
    myNode.removeChild(myNode.lastChild);
  }
}
<div id='foo' style="height: 100px; width: 100px; border: 1px solid black;">
  <span>Hello</span>
</div>
<button id='doFoo'>Remove via lastChild-loop</button>

Option 2 B: Looping to remove every lastElementChild:

  • This approach preserves all non-Element (namely #text nodes and <!-- comments --> ) children of the parent (but not their descendants) - and this may be desirable in your application (e.g. some templating systems that use inline HTML comments to store template instructions).
  • This approach wasn't used until recent years as Internet Explorer only added support for lastElementChild in IE9.

doFoo.onclick = () => {
  const myNode = document.getElementById("foo");
  while (myNode.lastElementChild) {
    myNode.removeChild(myNode.lastElementChild);
  }
}
<div id='foo' style="height: 100px; width: 100px; border: 1px solid black;">
  <!-- This comment won't be removed -->
  <span>Hello <!-- This comment WILL be removed --></span>
  <!-- But this one won't. -->
</div>
<button id='doFoo'>Remove via lastElementChild-loop</button>

Bonus: Element.clearChildren monkey-patch:

  • We can add a new method-property to the Element prototype in JavaScript to simplify invoking it to just el.clearChildren() (where el is any HTML element object).
  • (Strictly speaking this is a monkey-patch, not a polyfill, as this is not a standard DOM feature or missing feature. Note that monkey-patching is rightfully discouraged in many situations.)

if( typeof Element.prototype.clearChildren === 'undefined' ) {
    Element.prototype.clearChildren = function() {
        while(this.firstChild) this.removeChild(this.lastChild);
    };
}
<div id='foo' style="height: 100px; width: 100px; border: 1px solid black;">
  <span>Hello <!-- This comment WILL be removed --></span>
</div>
<button onclick="this.previousElementSibling.clearChildren()">Remove via monkey-patch</button>


The currently accepted answer is wrong about innerHTML being slower (at least in IE and Chrome), as m93a correctly mentioned.

Chrome and FF are dramatically faster using this method (which will destroy attached jquery data):

var cNode = node.cloneNode(false);
node.parentNode.replaceChild(cNode, node);

in a distant second for FF and Chrome, and fastest in IE:

node.innerHTML = '';

InnerHTML won't destroy your event handlers or break jquery references, it's also recommended as a solution here: https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/API/Element.innerHTML.

The fastest DOM manipulation method (still slower than the previous two) is the Range removal, but ranges aren't supported until IE9.

var range = document.createRange();
range.selectNodeContents(node);
range.deleteContents();

The other methods mentioned seem to be comparable, but a lot slower than innerHTML, except for the outlier, jquery (1.1.1 and 3.1.1), which is considerably slower than anything else:

$(node).empty();

Evidence here:

http://jsperf.com/innerhtml-vs-removechild/167 http://jsperf.com/innerhtml-vs-removechild/300 https://jsperf.com/remove-all-child-elements-of-a-dom-node-in-javascript (New url for jsperf reboot because editing the old url isn't working)

Jsperf's "per-test-loop" often gets understood as "per-iteration", and only the first iteration has nodes to remove so the results are meaningless, at time of posting there were tests in this thread set up incorrectly.


Use modern Javascript, with remove!

const parent = document.getElementById("foo");
while (parent.firstChild) {
    parent.firstChild.remove();
}

This is a newer way to write node removal in ES5. It is vanilla JS and reads much nicer than previous versions.

Most users should have modern browsers or you can transpile down if needed.

Browser Support - 95% Dec 2019


var myNode = document.getElementById("foo");
var fc = myNode.firstChild;

while( fc ) {
    myNode.removeChild( fc );
    fc = myNode.firstChild;
}

If there's any chance that you have jQuery affected descendants, then you must use some method that will clean up jQuery data.

$('#foo').empty();

The jQuery .empty() method will ensure that any data that jQuery associated with elements being removed will be cleaned up.

If you simply use DOM methods of removing the children, that data will remain.


If you use jQuery:

$('#foo').empty();

If you don't:

var foo = document.getElementById('foo');
while (foo.firstChild) foo.removeChild(foo.firstChild);

The fastest...

var removeChilds = function (node) {
    var last;
    while (last = node.lastChild) node.removeChild(last);
};

Thanks to Andrey Lushnikov for his link to jsperf.com (cool site!).

EDIT: to be clear, there is no performance difference in Chrome between firstChild and lastChild. The top answer shows a good solution for performance.


If you only want to have the node without its children you could also make a copy of it like this:

var dupNode = document.getElementById("foo").cloneNode(false);

Depends on what you're trying to achieve.


element.textContent = '';

It's like innerText, except standard. It's a bit slower than removeChild(), but it's easier to use and won't make much of a performance difference if you don't have too much stuff to delete.


Here's another approach:

function removeAllChildren(theParent){

    // Create the Range object
    var rangeObj = new Range();

    // Select all of theParent's children
    rangeObj.selectNodeContents(theParent);

    // Delete everything that is selected
    rangeObj.deleteContents();
}

In response to DanMan, Maarten and Matt. Cloning a node, to set the text is indeed a viable way in my results.

// @param {node} node
// @return {node} empty node
function removeAllChildrenFromNode (node) {
  var shell;
  // do not copy the contents
  shell = node.cloneNode(false);

  if (node.parentNode) {
    node.parentNode.replaceChild(shell, node);
  }

  return shell;
}

// use as such
var myNode = document.getElementById('foo');
myNode = removeAllChildrenFromNode( myNode );

Also this works for nodes not in the dom which return null when trying to access the parentNode. In addition, if you need to be safe a node is empty before adding content this is really helpful. Consider the use case underneath.

// @param {node} node
// @param {string|html} content
// @return {node} node with content only
function refreshContent (node, content) {
  var shell;
  // do not copy the contents
  shell = node.cloneNode(false);

  // use innerHTML or you preffered method
  // depending on what you need
  shell.innerHTML( content );

  if (node.parentNode) {
    node.parentNode.replaceChild(shell, node);
  }

  return shell;
}

// use as such
var myNode = document.getElementById('foo');
myNode = refreshContent( myNode );

I find this method very useful when replacing a string inside an element, if you are not sure what the node will contain, instead of worrying how to clean up the mess, start out fresh.


Here is what I usually do :

HTMLElement.prototype.empty = function() {
    while (this.firstChild) {
        this.removeChild(this.firstChild);
    }
}

And voila, later on you can empty any dom element with :

anyDom.empty()

There are couple of options to achieve that:

The fastest ():

while (node.lastChild) {
  node.removeChild(node.lastChild);
}

Alternatives (slower):

while (node.firstChild) {
  node.removeChild(node.firstChild);
}

while (node.hasChildNodes()) {
  node.removeChild(node.lastChild);
}

Benchmark with the suggested options


var empty_element = function (element) {

    var node = element;

    while (element.hasChildNodes()) {              // selected elem has children

        if (node.hasChildNodes()) {                // current node has children
            node = node.lastChild;                 // set current node to child
        }
        else {                                     // last child found
            console.log(node.nodeName);
            node = node.parentNode;                // set node to parent
            node.removeChild(node.lastChild);      // remove last node
        }
    }
}

This will remove all nodes within the element.


innerText is the winner! http://jsperf.com/innerhtml-vs-removechild/133. At all previous tests inner dom of parent node were deleted at first iteration and then innerHTML or removeChild where applied to empty div.


Simplest way of removing the child nodes of a node via Javascript

var myNode = document.getElementById("foo");
while(myNode.hasChildNodes())
{
   myNode.removeChild(myNode.lastChild);
}

i saw people doing:

while (el.firstNode) {
    el.removeChild(el.firstNode);
}

then someone said using el.lastNode is faster

however I would think that this is the fastest:

var children = el.childNodes;
for (var i=children.length - 1; i>-1; i--) {
    el.removeNode(children[i]);
}

what do you think?

ps: this topic was a life saver for me. my firefox addon got rejected cuz i used innerHTML. Its been a habit for a long time. then i foudn this. and i actually noticed a speed difference. on load the innerhtml took awhile to update, however going by addElement its instant!


Using a range loop feels the most natural to me:

for (var child of node.childNodes) {
    child.remove();
}

According to my measurements in Chrome and Firefox, it is about 1.3x slower. In normal circumstances, this will perhaps not matter.


Generally, JavaScript uses arrays to reference lists of DOM nodes. So, this will work nicely if you have an interest in doing it through the HTMLElements array. Also, worth noting, because I am using an array reference instead of JavaScript proto's this should work in any browser, including IE.

while(nodeArray.length !== 0) {
  nodeArray[0].parentNode.removeChild(nodeArray[0]);
}

Why aren't we following the simplest method here "remove" looped inside while.

const foo = document.querySelector(".foo");
while (foo.firstChild) {
  foo.firstChild.remove();     
}
  • Selecting the parent div
  • Using "remove" Method inside a While loop for eliminating First child element , until there is none left.

 let el = document.querySelector('#el');
 if (el.hasChildNodes()) {
      el.childNodes.forEach(child => el.removeChild(child));
 }

Just saw someone mention this question in another and thought I would add a method I didn't see yet:

function clear(el) {
    el.parentNode.replaceChild(el.cloneNode(false), el);
}

var myNode = document.getElementById("foo");
clear(myNode);

The clear function is taking the element and using the parent node to replace itself with a copy without it's children. Not much performance gain if the element is sparse but when the element has a bunch of nodes the performance gains are realized.


Functional only approach:

const domChildren = (el) => Array.from(el.childNodes)
const domRemove = (el) => el.parentNode.removeChild(el)
const domEmpty = (el) => domChildren(el).map(domRemove)

"childNodes" in domChildren will give a nodeList of the immediate children elements, which is empty when none are found. In order to map over the nodeList, domChildren converts it to array. domEmpty maps a function domRemove over all elements which removes it.

Example usage:

domEmpty(document.body)

removes all children from the body element.


Other ways in jQuery

var foo = $("#foo");
foo.children().remove();
or
$("*", foo ).remove();
or
foo.html("");

simply only IE:

parentElement.removeNode(true);

true - means to do deep removal - which means that all child are also removed


The easiest way:

let container = document.getElementById("containerId");
container.innerHTML = "";

simple and fast using for loop!!

var myNode = document.getElementById("foo");

    for(var i = myNode.childNodes.length - 1; i >= 0; --i) {
      myNode.removeChild(myNode.childNodes[i]);
    }

this will not work in <span> tag!


If you want to put something back into that div, the innerHTML is probably better.

My example:

<ul><div id="result"></div></ul>

<script>
  function displayHTML(result){
    var movieLink = document.createElement("li");
    var t = document.createTextNode(result.Title);
    movieLink.appendChild(t);
    outputDiv.appendChild(movieLink);
  }
</script>

If I use the .firstChild or .lastChild method the displayHTML() function doesnt work afterwards, but no problem with the .innerHTML method.


This is a pure javascript i am not using jQuery but works in all browser even IE and it is verry simple to understand

   <div id="my_div">
    <p>Paragraph one</p>
    <p>Paragraph two</p>
    <p>Paragraph three</p>
   </div>
   <button id ="my_button>Remove nodes ?</button>

   document.getElementById("my_button").addEventListener("click",function(){

  let parent_node =document.getElemetById("my_div"); //Div which contains paagraphs

  //Let find numbers of child inside the div then remove all
  for(var i =0; i < parent_node.childNodes.length; i++) {
     //To avoid a problem which may happen if there is no childNodes[i] 
     try{
       if(parent_node.childNodes[i]){
         parent_node.removeChild(parent_node.childNodes[i]);
       }
     }catch(e){
     }
  }

})

or you may simpli do this which is a quick way to do

document.getElementById("my_button").addEventListener("click",function(){

 let parent_node =document.getElemetById("my_div");
 parent_node.innerHTML ="";

})

with jQuery :

$("#foo").find("*").remove();

You can remove all child elements from a container like below:

function emptyDom(selector){
 const elem = document.querySelector(selector);
 if(elem) elem.innerHTML = "";
}

Now you can call the function and pass the selector like below:

If element has id = foo

emptyDom('#foo');

If element has class = foo

emptyDom('.foo');

if element has tag = <div>

emptyDom('div')

elm.replaceChildren()

It's experimental without wide support, but when executed with no params will do what you're asking for, and it's more efficient than looping through each child and removing it. As mentioned already, replacing innerHTML with an empty string will require HTML parsing on the browser's part.

Documentation here.


element.innerHTML = "" (or .textContent) is by far the fastest solution

Most of the answers here are based on flawed tests

For example: https://jsperf.com/innerhtml-vs-removechild/15
This test does not add new children to the element between each iteration. The first iteration will remove the element's contents, and every other iteration will then do nothing. In this case, while (box.lastChild) box.removeChild(box.lastChild) was faster because box.lastChild was null 99% of the time

Here is a proper test: https://jsperf.com/innerhtml-conspiracy

Finally, do not use node.parentNode.replaceChild(node.cloneNode(false), node). This will replace the node with a copy of itself without its children. However, this does not preserve event listeners and breaks any other references to the node.