How to remove spaces in Excel - leading, trailing, non-breaking

The tutorial explains how to remove blank spaces in Excel using formulas and the Text Toolkit tool. You will learn how to delete leading and trailing spaces in a cell, eliminate extra spaces between words, get rid of non-breaking white space and non-printing characters.

What's the biggest problem with spaces? They are often invisible to the human eye. An attentive user can occasionally catch a leading space hiding before the text or a few extra spaces between words. But there is no way to spot trailing spaces, those that keep out of sight at the end of cells.

It wouldn't be much of a problem if extra spaces were just lying around, but they mess up your formulas. The point is that two cells containing the same text with and without spaces, even if it's as little as a single space character, are deemed different values. So, you may be racking your brain trying to figure out why an obviously correct formula cannot match two seemingly identical entries.
Leading, trailing and extra spaces between words

Now that you are fully aware of the problem, it's time to work out a solution. There are several ways to remove spaces from string, and this tutorial will help you choose the technique best suited for your particular task and the data type you are working with.

How to remove blank spaces in Excel - leading, trailing, between words

If your data set contains superfluous spaces, the Excel TRIM function can help you delete them all in one go - leading, trailing and multiple in-between spaces, except for a single space character between words.

A regular TRIM formula is as simple as this:

=TRIM(A2)

Where A2 is the cell you want to delete spaces from.

As shown in the following screenshot, the Excel TRIM formula successfully eliminated all spaces before and after the text as well as consecutive spaces in the middle of a string.
TRIM formula to remove extra spaces in Excel

And now, you only need to replace values in the original column with trimmed values. The easiest way to do this is using Paste Special > Values, the detailed instructions can be found here: How to copy values in Excel.

Additionally, you can use the Excel TRIM function to remove leading spaces only, keeping all spaces in the middle of a text string intact. The formula example is here: How to trim leading spaces in Excel (Left Trim).

How to delete line breaks and nonprinting characters

When you import data from external sources, it's not only extra spaces that come along, but also various non-printing characters like carriage return, line feed, vertical or horizontal tab, etc.

The TRIM function can get rid of white spaces, but it cannot eliminate non-printing characters. Technically, Excel TRIM is designed to only delete value 32 in the 7-bit ASCII system, which is the space character.

To remove spaces and non-printing characters in a string, use TRIM in combination with the CLEAN function. As its names suggests, CLEAN is purposed for cleaning data, and it can delete any and all of the first 32 non-printing characters in the 7-bit ASCII set (values 0 through 31) including line break (value 10).

Assuming the data to be cleaned is in cell A2, the formula is as follows:

=TRIM(CLEAN(A2))

Deleting line breaks and nonprinting characters

If the Trim/Clean formula joins the contents of multiple lines without spaces, you can fix it by using one of these techniques:

  • Utilize the "Replace All" feature of Excel: in the "Find what" box, input a carriage return by pressing the Ctrl+J shortcut; and in the "Replace with" box, type a space. Clicking the Replace All button will swap all line breaks in the selected range for spaces.
  • Use the following formula to substitute Carriage Return (value 13) and Line Feed (value 10) characters with spaces:

    =SUBSTITUTE(SUBSTITUTE(A2, CHAR(13)," "), CHAR(10), " ")

For more information, please see How to remove carriage returns (line breaks) in Excel.

How to remove non-breaking spaces in Excel

If after using the TRIM & CLEAN formula some stubborn spaces are still there, most likely you copy/pasted the data from somewhere and a few non-breaking spaces sneaked in.

To get rid of nonbreaking spaces (html character  ), replace them with regular spaces, and then have the TRIM function remove them:

=TRIM(SUBSTITUTE(A2, CHAR(160), " "))

To better understand the logic, let's break down the formula:

  • A non-breaking character has value 160 in the 7-bit ASCII system, so you can define it by using the CHAR(160) formula.
  • The SUBSTITUTE function is used to turn non-breaking spaces into regular spaces.
  • And finally, you embed the SUBSTITUTE statement into the TRIM function to remove the converted spaces.

If your worksheet also contains non-printing characters, use the CLEAN function together with TRIM and SUBSTITUTE to get rid of spaces and unwanted symbols in one fell swoop:

=TRIM(CLEAN((SUBSTITUTE(A2,CHAR(160)," "))))

The following screenshot demonstrates the difference:
Removing non-breaking spaces

How to delete a specific non-printing character

If the liaison of 3 functions discussed in the above example (TRIM, CLEAN and SUBSTITUTE) was not able to eliminate spaces or non-printing characters in your sheet, it means those characters have ASCII values other than 0 to 32 (non-printing characters) or 160 (non-breaking space).

In this case, use the CODE function to identify the character value, and then employ SUBSTITUTE to replace it with a regular space and TRIM to remove the space.

Assuming the spaces or other undesirable characters that you want to get rid of reside in cell A2, you write 2 formulas:

  1. In cell B2, detect the problematic character value by using one of the following CODE functions:
    • Leading space or non-printing character at the beginning of the string:

      =CODE(LEFT(A2,1))

    • Trailing space or non-printing character at the end of the string:

      =CODE(RIGHT(A2,1))

    • Space or non-printing character in the middle of the string, where n is the position of the problematic character:

      =CODE(MID(A2, n, 1)))

    In this example, we have some unknown non-printing character in the middle of the text, in the 4th position, and we find out its value with this formula:

    =CODE(MID(A2,4,1))

    The CODE function returns value 127 (please see the screenshot below).

  2. In cell C2, you replace CHAR(127) with a regular space (" "), and then trim that space:

    =TRIM(SUBSTITUTE(A2, CHAR(127), " "))

The result should look something similar to this:
Delete a non-printing character based on its code value

If your data contains a few different non-printing chars as well as non-breaking spaces, you can nest two or more SUBSTITUTE functions to remove all unwanted character codes at a time:

=TRIM(SUBSTITUTE(SUBSTITUTE(A2, CHAR(127), " "), CHAR(160), " ")))

Removing several non-printing characters and non-breaking spaces with a single formula

How to remove all spaces in Excel

In some situations, you may want to remove absolutely all white spaces in a cell, including single spaces between words or numbers. For example, when you have imported a numeric column where spaces are used as thousands separators, which makes it easier to read big numbers, but prevents your formulas from calculating.

To delete all spaces in one go, use SUBSTITUTE as explained in the previous example, with the only difference that you replace the space character returned by CHAR(32) with nothing (""):

=SUBSTITUTE(A2, CHAR(32), "")

Or, you can simply type the space (" ") in the formula, like this:

=SUBSTITUTE(A2," ","")

Remove all spaces in a cell

After that, replace formulas with values and your numbers will calculate properly.

How to count spaces in Excel

Before removing spaces from a certain cell, you may be curious to know how many of them are actually there.

To get the total count of spaces in a cell, do the following:

  • Calculate the entire string length using the LEN function: LEN(A2)
  • Substitute all spaces with nothing: SUBSTITUTE(A2," ","")
  • Compute the length of the string without spaces: LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A2," ",""))
  • Subtract the "space-free" string length from the total length.

Assuming the original text string is in cell A2, the complete formula goes as follows:

=LEN(A2)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A2," ",""))

To find out how many extra spaces are in the cell, get the text length without extra spaces, and then subtract it from the total string length:

=LEN(A2)-LEN(TRIM(A2))

The following screenshot demonstrates both formulas in action:
Formulas to count spaces in cells

Now that you know how many spaces each cell contains, you can safely delete extra spaces using the TRIM formula.

Formula-free way to remove spaces and clean data

As you already know, many extra spaces and other unwelcome characters can lurk unnoticed in your sheets, especially if you import your data from external sources. You also know how to delete spaces in Excel with a formula. Of course, learning a handful of formulas is a good exercise to sharpen your skills, but it might be time-consuming.

Excel users who value their time and appreciate convenience can take advantage of the Text Tools included with our Ultimate Suite for Excel. One of these handy tools allows removing spaces and non-printing characters in a button click.

Once installed, Ultimate Suite adds several useful buttons to your Excel ribbon such as Trim Spaces, Remove Characters, Convert Text, Clear Formatting, and a few more.

Special options to trim spaces and clean data in Excel

Whenever you want to remove blank spaces in your Excel sheets, perform these 4 quick steps:

  1. Select the cells (range, entire column or row) where you want to delete extra spaces.
  2. Click the Trim Spaces button on the Ablebits Data tab.
  3. Choose one or several options:
    • Remove leading and trailing spaces
    • Trim extra spaces between words to one
    • Delete non-breaking spaces ( )
  4. Click the Trim button.

Done! All extra spaces are deleted in a single click.

All extra spaces in a column are deleted in a single click.

This is how you can quickly remove spaces in Excel cells. If you are curious to explore other capabilities, you are most welcome to download an evaluation version of the Ultimate Suite. I thank you for reading and look forward to seeing you on our blog next week!

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