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Listen for class change in JavaScript

There isn’t an event for class list changes, but you can write a function that listens for class changes on an element with the MutationObserver API.

Copy & paste:

function onClassChange(node, callback) {
  let lastClassString = node.classList.toString();

  const mutationObserver = new MutationObserver((mutationList) => {
    for (const item of mutationList) {
      if (item.attributeName === "class") {
        const classString = node.classList.toString();
        if (classString !== lastClassString) {
          lastClassString = classString;

  mutationObserver.observe(node, { attributes: true });

  return mutationObserver;

Step by step:

  1. The function accepts two parameters: a reference to a DOM node to watch and the callback to execute when the class has changed.
  2. Within the function, we store a reference to the class list as a string that we will use for comparison later.
  3. Create a new MutationObserver instance with a callback that listens for class changes.
    1. Inside that callback, we loop through the mutation list and look for any changes to the class attribute.
    2. If we find one, then we compare the current class list as a string to the reference declared above.
      • This comparison is necessary to prevent false class change positives, e.g adding the same class twice.
    3. If the class strings do not match, invoke the callback and update the class string reference.
    4. Break out of the loop if we have detected a change.
  4. Observe the passed node with the new mutation observer instance and configure it to fire on attribute changes.
  5. Return the mutation observer for later clean up

Try it out:

See the Pen Function to listen for class change by Sean McPherson (@SeanMcP) on CodePen.

Takeaway: It would be nice if there was a standard method for listening to class changes, but it is nice to know that you can write your own with a MutationObserver.

Read more:

About the author

Sean McPherson is a software engineer for Khan Academy who specializes in web development. He lives with his wife, sons, and dog in Pittsburgh, PA.