Placeholder for HTML Select box

Select boxes don't currently support the 'placeholder' attribute, so here's a workaround that works just as well.

    <option value="" disabled selected hidden>Please Choose...</option>
    <option value="0">Open when powered (most valves do this)</option>
    <option value="1">Closed when powered, auto-opens when power is cut</option>

The Disabled option stops the <option> being selected with both mouse and keyboard, whereas just using display: none allows the user to still select via the keyboard arrows. The display: none style just makes the list box look 'nice'.

Note: Using an empty value attribute on the "placeholder" option allows validation (required attribute) to work around having the "placeholder", so if the option isn't changed but is required; the browser should prompt the user to choose an option from the list.

This method is confirmed working in the following browsers:

  • Google Chrome - v.43.0.2357.132
  • Mozilla Firefox - v.39.0
  • Safari - v.8.0.7 (Placeholder is visible in dropdown but is not selectable)
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer - v.11 (Placeholder is visible in dropdown but is not selectable)
  • Project Spartan - v.15.10130 (Placeholder is visible in dropdown but is not selectable)


When the select element is required it allows use of the :invalid CSS pseudo-class which allows you to style the select element when in it's "placeholder" state. :invalid works here because of the empty value in the placeholder option.

Once a value has been set the :invalid pseudo-class will be dropped. You can optionally also use :valid if you so wish.

Most browsers support this pseudo-class. IE10+. This works best with custom styled selectelements; In some cases i.e. ( Mac in Chrome / Safari) you'll need to change the default appearance of the select box so that certain styles display i.e. background-colorcolor. You can find some examples and more about compatibility at

Native element appearance Mac in Chrome:

Select box native Mac in Chrome

Using altered border element Mac in Chrome:

Altered select box Mac in Chrome