Adventures in Machine Learning

Say Goodbye to Garbled Text: Removing Non-UTF-8 Characters in Python

Removing Non-UTF-8 Characters: A Step-by-Step Guide

Have you ever encountered garbled text when trying to read a file or string? This could be caused by non-UTF-8 characters present in the content.

UTF-8 is a character encoding system that assigns a unique binary code to every character. It is widely used and compatible with almost all devices and software.

Non-UTF-8 characters can cause compatibility issues and may even lead to data loss. In this article, we will guide you through the process of removing non-UTF-8 characters from strings and files.

1) Removing Non-UTF-8 Characters from a String

The first step is to encode the string to a bytes object. This is done using the str.encode() method.

This method takes an encoding parameter, which indicates the type of encoding to use. We’ll use utf-8 encoding for this example.

my_string = "Hllo Wrld"
my_bytes = my_string.encode(encoding="utf-8")


The output should be a bytes object that represents the encoded string.

b'Hxc3xa9llo Wxc3xb6rld'

Notice that the accented characters have been encoded into their binary representation.

The next step is to decode the bytes object back to a string. This is done using the bytes.decode() method.

my_string_utf8 = my_bytes.decode(encoding="utf-8")


The output should be the original string without the non-UTF-8 characters.

Hello World

2) Removing Non-UTF-8 Characters from a File

If you have a file with non-UTF-8 characters, you can remove them by iterating over the file lines and encoding/decoding the content. Here’s an example using a for loop.

with open("my_file.txt", "r+") as file:
    lines = file.readlines()
    for line in lines:
        encoded_line = line.encode(encoding="utf-8", errors="ignore")
        decoded_line = encoded_line.decode(encoding="utf-8")

The first step is to open the file in “read and write” mode using the “r+” argument. We then read all the lines into a list variable called lines.

We use the seek(0) method to set the file pointer to the beginning of the file. Next, we loop over each line, encode it to a bytes object, decode it to a string, and write it back to the file.

Lastly, we truncate the file to remove any remaining content. This approach could be modified to handle binary files by using the “rb+” and “wb+” modes instead.

The encoding and decoding steps would be replaced with byte manipulation.

3) Removing Non-UTF-8 Characters from a Bytes Object

Sometimes you may need to remove non-UTF-8 characters from a bytes object. This can be achieved by decoding the bytes object to a string and then encoding it back to a bytes object, using the encoding parameter to indicate UTF-8 encoding and the errors parameter set to ‘ignore’ to ignore any non-UTF-8 characters.

my_bytes = b'Hxc3xa9llo Wxc3xb6rld'
my_string = my_bytes.decode(encoding="utf-8", errors="ignore")
my_new_bytes = my_string.encode(encoding="utf-8")


The output should be a bytes object that represents the encoded string without non-UTF-8 characters.

b'Hello World'

This simple approach effectively removes non-UTF-8 characters from bytes objects and can be used in a variety of contexts.

4) Additional Resources

If you’re interested in learning more about character encoding and other related topics, there are many online tutorials available that cover these topics in-depth. Here are some resources that you might find helpful:

  • The Python documentation provides a comprehensive guide to encoding and decoding strings and dealing with Unicode characters.
  • Real Python is a popular online learning platform that offers a range of Python tutorials, including several on text and character encoding.
  • Stack Overflow is a popular question and answer site where programmers can ask and answer questions about Python and other programming languages.

By taking advantage of these resources, you can deepen your understanding of character encoding and ensure that your Python code is robust and compatibility across platforms.


Removing non-UTF-8 characters from strings, files, and bytes objects is essential in ensuring compatibility and preventing issues like data loss. In this article, we have discussed the steps involved in removing non-UTF-8 characters from strings, files, and bytes objects, including encoding and decoding and setting the error keyword.

Additionally, we have provided some helpful resources to explore to deepen your understanding of character encoding and applying Python. By following these steps and being mindful of compatibility issues, you can ensure that your Python code is robust and compatible across various platforms, making your programming experience more effective and efficient.

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