May 10, 2019

Add event listener for class change

If you’re like me and spent some time searching for an event listener for class changes, let me save you some time: there isn’t one.

However, you can create your own custom event listener using the MutationObserver API. Let’s look at how to create a simple listener for class changes.

MutationObserver is a constructor that can allows you to watch any changes to the DOM tree. The constructor takes a callback function that will receive two arguments: a list of MutationRecords, and a reference to the observer.

First, let’s first create a callback that logs its parameters and then construct a new MutationObserver:

function callback(mutationsList, observer) {
console.log('Mutations:', mutationsList)
console.log('Observer:', observer)

const mutationObserver = new MutationObserver(callback)

We’ve constructed basic custom observer, but we need to listen for changes on something. To add our custom event listener, we need to call the created observer’s observe() method.

MutationObserver.observe() takes two arguments: the DOM node target, and an optional options object. We’ll call this method and pass it a node reference and one option:

{ attributes: true }

This set our MutationObserver to look for any changes to the main's attributes. If we trigger a change, we can see the two logs from callback():



On each MutationRecord object, there is an attributeName property. If that value is equal to ‘class’, then we know that there has been a change to the element’s class name.

Now we can update the callback function by adding a condition:

function callback(mutationsList) {
mutationsList.forEach(mutation => {
if (mutation.attributeName === 'class') {

This code will fire an alert if any item in mutationsList records a change to main's class attribute.

If you need to stop your custom event listener later, use MutationObserver's disconnect() method to remove it like you would a normal event listener:



Checkout a working example of custom event listener for class change on CodePen:

Happy coding!

An illustration of Sean McPherson's face

My name is Sean McPherson, and I'm a software developer and educator living in Atlanta, GA.

I write about React, JavaScript, accessibility, user experience, and occassionally some other topics.