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How to get, set, and remove data attributes with vanilla JavaScript

Today, we’re going to look at how to get, set, remove, and check for data attributes on an element. Let’s dig in!

What is a data attribute?

A data attribute is a custom attribute on an element that starts with data-*. It can be used to store information (or “state”) about the element, or even just as a selector for JavaScript components.

In this example, the button has a data attribute named [data-click]. It has a value of count.

<button data-click="count">Count Up</button>

Data attributes don’t have to have values, though. In this example, the button has a data attibute of [data-count], without a value.

<button data-count>Count Up</button>

Now, let’s look at how to manipulate them with vanilla JavaScript.

Manipulating data attributes with JavaScript

The Element.getAttribute(), Element.setAttribute(), Element.removeAttribute(), and Element.hasAttribute() methods are used to get, set, remove, and check for the existence of attributes (including data attributes) on an element.

If an attribute does not exist on an element, the Element.getAttribute() method returns null.

let btn = document.querySelector('button');

// Get the value of the [data-click] attribute
// returns "count"
let click = btn.getAttribute('data-click');

// Set a value for the [data-count] attribute
// <button data-count="up">Count Up</button>
btn.setAttribute('data-count', 'up');

// Remove the [data-click] attribute

// Check if an element has the `[data-toggle]` attribute
if (btn.hasAttribute('data-toggle')) {
	console.log('Toggle something, dude!');

Data attributes and CSS

Data attributes are also valid CSS selectors. Wrap attribute selectors in square brackets, like this.

 * Style the [data-count] button
[data-count] {
	background-color: #0088cc;
	border-color: #0088cc;
	color: #ffffff;

You can also use with JavaScript methods that accept CSS selectors as an argument, like document.querySelector(), document.querySelectorAll(), Element.matches(), and Element.closet().

// Get elements with a data attribute
let count = document.querySelector('[data-count]');
let allCounts = document.querySelectorAll('[data-count]');

// Check if an element has a data attribute
if (count.matches('[data-click]')) {
	console.log('We have a match!');

There are some advanced ways to target data attributes, too.

Custom attributes

While data attributes (starting with data-*) are a common convention, you can create custom attributes, too. Some libraries do this.

For example, Vue does this with v-* attributes.

<div id="app-3">
	<span v-if="seen">Now you see me</span>

You can use the Element.*Attribute() methods to manipulate custom attributes as well.

let span = document.querySelector('[v-if]');

// Update the value of the [v-if] attribute
span.setAttribute('v-if', 'invisible');

Tomorrow, we’ll look at another way to get and set data attributes: the Element.dataset property. And on Friday, we’ll explore different strategies for working with data attributes.