Remove unwanted characters in Excel

To remove specific unwanted characters in Excel, you can use a formula based on the SUBSTITUTE function.




In the example shown, the formula in C4 is:


Which removes a series of 4 invisible characters at the start of each cell in column B.

How this formula works

The SUBSTITUTE function can find and replace text in a cell, wherever it occurs.

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In this case, we are using SUBSTITUTE to find a character with code number 202, and replace it with an empty string (“”), which effectively removes the character completely.

How did I know to remove character 202?

To figure that out, I first used this formula to get the code number for the first character of B4:


Here, the LEFT function, without the optional second argument, returns the first character on the left. This goes into the CODE function, which reports the characters code value, which is 202.

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All in one formula

In this case, since we are stripping leading characters, we could combine both formulas in one, like so:


Here, instead of providing character 202 explicitly to SUBSTITUTE, we are using CODE and CHAR to provide a code dynamically, using the first character in the cell.

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