Vanilla JavaScript: How to Detect Clicks Outside of An Element

Learning how to detect clicks outside of an element with JavaScript is a powerful skill that you can use in many situations, e.g. for hiding menus or modal windows. In a few minutes, you’ll know how.

Video showing a box element hiding when clicking outside of it

Although TechStacker’s tutorials go best with coffee, any good beverage is fine (I recommend Yerba Mate or Green Tea).

Basic JavaScript outside element detection

Create a box element in HTML:

<div class="box">
If you click anywhere outside of me, I’m gone 
faster than you can snap your fingers.

Let’s style the box with CSS and create a hide element utility class:

.box {
    margin: 1rem auto 1rem auto;
    max-width: 300px;
    border: 1px solid #555;
    border-radius: 4px;
    padding: 1rem 1.5rem;
    font-size: 1.5rem;

.js-is-hidden {
    display: none;
The js-* prefix on CSS classes for JavaScript hooks is a good practice. It let’s other developers know that they should not change it, as it might affect important behavior on the site.

And the JavaScript click detection script:

var box = document.querySelector(".box");

// Detect all clicks on the document
document.addEventListener("click", function(event) {

// If user clicks inside the element, do nothing
if (".box")) return;

// If user clicks outside the element, hide it!

Here’s a CodePen with all the code.

How the JavaScript code works:

  • First, we find the box element with querySelector() and assign it to a variable called box
  • Then we attach addEventListener() to our document and tell it to listen for clicks on the document (on the entire page).
  • When the user clicks on the document, then the function() initiates a conditional statement inside its code block { .. }:
  • If the user clicks inside the box element (, then do nothing (that’s the return; part).
  • But if they click outside of the box element, then we hide it by using the classList.add method to add the .js-is-hidden CSS class (with the display: none property) that we created earlier.

Now you know how to detect clicks outside of elements!

Wrapping up

In a future tutorial, we’ll explore click detection in more depth, by putting together a practical web component that you can use on a real-life project. We could integrate click detection on a popup modal window, or perhaps a slide-in, slide-out menu?

Let me know what you want to learn!

Has this been helpful?
Let me know in the comments!

Or share it with your friends :-)


5 months ago

Seems idiotic... but extrenely useful at times, thanks for sharing ;)

David Atlas
David Atlas
5 months ago

Haha, yeah it can certainly be useful!

Thanks for commenting! :-)

5 months ago

Is it OK to use like that?

var box = document.querySelector('.box')
document.addEventListener('click', function (e) {
  if (!'.box')) {
David Atlas
David Atlas
5 months ago

Hi, yeah, your code is just a different way to solve the same problem.

Thanks for commenting! :)