What is a clearfix

Defining the Clearfix


  • A clearfix is a way for an element to automatically clear its child elements, so that you don’t need to add additional markup.
  • It’s generally used in float layouts where elements are floated to be stacked horizontally.
  • The clearfix is a way to combat the zero-height container problem for floated elements
  •  All HTML elements (div, p, ul, li, a, etc…) are essentially a box, and can contain other boxes.
  • A bigger box with more content (images, text, video, etc…) will make it’s parent box expand. Unless it’s taken out of the “flow of the document”

Explanation of CSS clearfix :

  • Only two CSS declarations do that.
    • position:absolute/fixed
    • float:left/right.
  • The parent essentially “forgets” that it contains children boxes and shrinks to only take up as much space as it needs.
  • If you assign the parent box a background color and float or absolutely position all it’s children boxes, then you’ll see no color at all as your parent box has essentially collapsed completely
  • Give the parent element a class of “clearfix” after having put the amazing clearfix CSS code in your stylesheet.
  • Give the parent element a width of anything & overflow:hidden.
  • That strive to keep presentation in CSS & content in HTML.
  • However, this won’t work if it contains something like a drop down menu as the overflow:hidden would hide the drop down.
  • Float the parent too
  • You’ll have to deal with a clear:both at some point, but you can keep passing it on by keep floating a parent till you get to a point when you can clear it all.
  • Clearfix is a “hack” used to contain/enclose floats without structural markup.
  • In short, it is a sophisticated/elegant way to do the same thing as this:
html code
<div style="clear:both"><!-- this clears all previous floats --></div>
  • but without including that markup in the document.
  • The magic relies in the use of ::after (a pseudo-element)
  • clearfix uses ::after to generate content (via the content property), then style that content to clear previous floats.
  • Because this method does not work in IE (< 8) clearfix relies on haslayout .
  • To make IE behave (giving a layout to a box assures that it will contain floats).
  • Unfortunately, doing so creates very different constructs across browsers (see also new “block-formatting context“).
READ  HTML - CSS - Transitions on the display: property

Clearfix will be responsible for:

    • creating different margin boxes
    • collapsing margins differently across browsers
    • clearing floats differently across browsers (not children, but siblings)
  • Clearfix is actually used to fix the issue when a parent div or block element contains floating children.
  • Without clearfix the browser will not take into account the height of floated children when displaying the parent.
  • So as an example, if you had a parent block with a background color that contained a floated child, the parent block would appear to stop behind the child or even above it.
  • Adding the clearfix class to the parent ensures that the parent completely wraps the floated children.

How to use a Clearfix?

  • When applying classes to your HTML elements you should be mindful of which elements require a clearfix.
  • Any HTML element will have floated child elements will require a clearfix.
  • You can do this by adding the class clearfix to your existing classes ( assuming you have access to editing those classes).
html code
<div class="container clearfix">
    <div class="content">other content stuff...</div>
    <div class="sidebar">Sidebar stuff...</div>
  • HTML classes can accept more than one class by separating them with a space. That means the container will accept CSS rules from both .container and .clearfix


This excellent CSS clear fix uses :before and :after pseudo-elements of the container to perform the clear:

html code
/* Assuming this HTML structure:

	<div class="clear">
		<div class="floated"></div>
		<div class="floated"></div>
		<div class="floated"></div>
    content: " ";
    display: table;

    clear: both;

About the author

Wikitechy Editor

Wikitechy Editor

Wikitechy Founder, Author, International Speaker, and Job Consultant. My role as the CEO of Wikitechy, I help businesses build their next generation digital platforms and help with their product innovation and growth strategy. I'm a frequent speaker at tech conferences and events.