JavaScript removeChild() method explained with code examples

Posted on Mar 21, 2022

Learn how the removeChild() method works with JavaScript code examples

The JavaScript removeChild() method allows you to remove a child node (element) from an existing element in the DOM (Document Object Model).

The method is defined in the JavaScript Node interface. The method syntax is as follows:

Node.removeChild(childNode);

The childNode parameter will be the element you want to remove from the DOM.

The Node object will be the parent element of the childNode.

For example, suppose you have a nested <div> element in your HTML document as shown below:

<div id="parent">
  <div id="child">
    <h1>Hello World!</h1>
  </div>
</div>

You can remove the child div element by calling the removeChild() method from the parent element.

Consider the following JavaScript code:

let parent = document.getElementById("parent");
let child = document.getElementById("child");
parent.removeChild(child);

Running the above code will create the following output:

<div id="parent"></div>

First, you need to select both the parent element and the child element that you want to remove.

Next, you need to call the removeChild() method from the parent element, passing the child element as an argument to the method.

Any element nested inside the child element will be removed altogether.

You can also remove a specified element without knowing its parent node by using the parentNode property of the Node object.

For example, suppose you have the following tree structure in your HTML document:

<body>
  <div id="main"></div>
</body>

To remove the main div, you can select the div and get its parent element reference saved in the parentNode property:

let main = document.getElementById("main");
console.log(main.parentNode);

// remove main
main.parentNode.removeChild(main);

The main div will be removed, leaving only the <body> tag:

<body></body>

The method also returns the removed element.

You are free to keep or discard the returned element in a variable:

let parent = document.getElementById("parent");
let child = document.getElementById("child");
let removedNode = parent.removeChild(child);

console.log(removedNode); // equals child variable

When you have multiple child elements, you can use the while statement to remove the child elements from the parent.

For example, suppose you have a <ul> list element as shown below:

<ul id="list">
  <li>HTML</li>
  <li>CSS</li>
  <li>JavaScript</li>
</ul>

Using the while statement, you can all <li> elements nested inside the <ul> element as shown below:

let list = document.getElementById('list');
while (list.firstChild) {
    list.removeChild(list.firstChild);
}

Only the list ul element will be left after the above code has been executed:

<ul id="list">
</ul>

You can also use the bracket notation of the children property to remove a specific element from the parent node:

let list = document.getElementById('list');

list.removeChild(list.children[1]); // <li>CSS</li>
list.removeChild(list.children[0]); // <li>HTML</li>

To remove the last child element, use the lastElementChild property from the parent node:

list.removeChild(list.lastElementChild); // <li>JavaScript</li>

The lastElementChild and firstElementChild properties return the last and first child node while ignoring any text node or comment node on the list.

The lastChild and firstChild properties will return any text node or comment node that exists in your node.

It’s fine to use the lastChild and firstChild properties in a while loop as shown above. But if you want to remove the individual element on the first or last position, use the lastElementChild and firstElementChild instead.

Now you’ve learned how the JavaScript removeChild() method and see some examples of how to use the method. Good work! 👍

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