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Converting strings to numbers with vanilla JavaScript

In JavaScript, you can represent a number is an actual number (ex. 42), or as a string (ex. '42').

If you were to use a strict comparison to compare the two, it would fail because they’re two different types of objects.

var num1 = 42;
var num2 = '42';
if (num1 === num2) {
} else {
// Will log `false`

Today, let’s look at three different ways to convert a string into a number.


The parseInt() method converts a string into an integer (a whole number).

It accepts two arguments. The first argument is the string to convert. The second argument is called the radix. This is the base number used in mathematical systems. For our use, it should always be 10.

var text = '42px';
var integer = parseInt(text, 10);
// returns 42


The parseFloat() method converts a string into a point number (a number with decimal points). You can even pass in strings with random text in them.

var text = '3.14someRandomStuff';
var pointNum = parseFloat(text);
// returns 3.14


The Number() method converts a string to a number.

Sometimes it’s an integer. Other times it’s a point number. And if you pass in a string with random text in it, you’ll get NaN, an acronym for “Not a Number.”

As a result of this inconsistency, it’s a less safe choice than parseInt() and parseFloat(). If you know the format of the number you’d like, use those instead. If you want the string to fail with NaN if it has other characters in it, Number() may actually be a better choice.

// Convert strings
Number('123'); // returns 123
Number('12.3'); // returns 12.3
Number('3.14someRandomStuff'); // returns NaN
Number('42px'); // returns NaN

Browser Compatibility

All three methods work in all modern browsers, and IE6 and up.

If you found this post useful, you might also like my Strings, Arrays, & Objects pocket guide, which features a ton of useful methods like these.