Remove leading zeros from a string in JavaScript

Oct 12, 2023#javascript#how-to

Handling a numeric value as a string with leading zeros is typically necessary in specific scenarios where the leading zeros have significance or are part of the desired formatting. Here are a few common situations:

  • Padding numbers to a consistent length
  • ZIP codes and phone numbers
  • In date and time representations
  • Binary or hexadecimal numbers
  • Preserving the user input as-is

It’s important to handle numeric values as strings with leading zeros to ensure that the data retains its intended format and accuracy. When the leading zeros have a specific meaning or are part of a data format, converting them to numbers can lead to data loss or misinterpretation.

The need to remove leading zeros from a string often arises for various practical reasons:

  • Leading zeros are usually irrelevant in mathematical operations.
  • Leading zeros can affect database storage efficiency.
  • Leading zeros can lead to incorrect results when comparing data.
  • Leading zeros may not be desirable when displaying data to users.
  • Leading zeros can affect sorting and searching algorithms.

There are different methods to remove leading zeros from a string depending on whether the string is a general string or a numeric string. A general string is any string that may contain any characters, while a numeric string is a string that represents a number in some format. Here is a summary of some of the methods for both types of strings:

  • For general strings, use replace() method with a regular expression.
  • For numeric strings, convert the string to a number to remove any leading zeros.
  • Another option is to use Lodash’s _.trimStart() function.
  • You can always write a custom function to remove leading zeros from any string.

Converting string to number

In JavaScript, a Number data type does not contain leading zeros. When you convert a string to a number, leading zeros are automatically removed during the conversion process. You can use the resulting value as either a number or a string depending on your specific requirements.

You can use parseInt function, Number constructor, the unary plus operator, or mathematical functions to remove leading zeros from a valid numeric value in string.

const str = "000123";

// Using parseInt() function
const num1 = parseInt(str, 10);
console.log(num1); // 123

// Using Number constructor
const num2 = Number(str);
console.log(num2); // 123

// Using the unary plus operator
const num3 = +str;
console.log(num3); // 123

// Using mathematical functions (such as subtraction)
const num4 = str - 0;
console.log(num4); // 123

In all cases, JavaScript recognizes the string as a numeric representation and converts it to a number, removing any leading zeros as part of that process. It’s a deliberate conversion from a numeric string to a number, and the removal of leading zeros is a natural consequence of that conversion.

However, these methods may have different behaviors for strings that contain hex, octal, binary literals, and a few more edge cases, which will result in NaN:

- Non numeric characters
- Empty string
- Leading and trailing whitespaces
- Exponential notation
- Infinity and -Infinity
- Hexadecimal, octal, and binary notation
- The decimal point character (either "." or ",")
- Overflow or loss of precision

Converting a string to number is a straightforward and easy-to-understand method. It is a relatively efficient way to remove leading zeros, especially when working with large datasets, as JavaScript’s built-in conversion functions are optimized.

Using regular expressions

One way to use regular expressions to remove leading zeros from a string in JavaScript is to use the replace() method with a pattern that matches one or more zeros at the beginning of the string.

// A string with leading zeros
let str = "000123";

// Use replace() with a regular expression to remove leading zeros
let newStr = str.replace(/^0+/, "");

// Print the result
console.log(newStr); // "123"

The regular expression /^0+/ matches one or more zeros at the start of the string and replaces them with an empty string.

  • / and / are the delimiters that mark the start and end of the pattern.
  • ^ is an anchor that matches the start of the string.
  • 0 is a literal character that matches the digit zero.
  • + is a quantifier that matches one or more occurrences of the preceding character.

Using a custom function

You can create a custom function to remove leading zeros by iterating through the string and removing zeros until a non-zero character is encountered.

function removeLeadingZeros(input) {
  let result = input;
  while (result[0] === '0') {
    result = result.substring(1);
  return result;

const str = "00123";
const newStr = removeLeadingZeros(str);
console.log(newStr); // "123"

The function is straightforward and easy to understand. It uses a simple while loop to remove leading zeros from the input string. It can be used for various strings, not just integers.

The function allows you to have fine-grained control over how leading zeros are removed or modified. If you need to implement additional logic, it can be easily integrated into the function.

Using trimStart of Lodash

Lodash is a popular JavaScript library that provides many useful utility functions for working with arrays, objects, strings, and more.

One of the functions that Lodash provides is _.trimStart(), which removes leading whitespace or specified characters from a string. You need to pass the string as the first parameter and the character zero "0" as the second parameter. For example:

const _ = require("lodash");

let str = "000123";
let newStr = _.trimStart(str, "0");
console.log(newStr); // "123"

This will return a new string with only the valid decimal digits remaining. However, this may not be what you want if you want to preserve the hexadecimal literal as a whole. Therefore, it is important to choose the method that suits your use case.