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How to configure Tailwind CSS to have small size in Phoenix application

April 04, 2020

Tailwind CSS is utility first css framework. It is very useful, once the initial learning curve is crossed over. However, one of the biggest issues with Tailwind CSS is, by default, generated css asset will be quite big, up to 1MB, and sometimes more.

Solution suggested by Tailwind CSS team is to use tool called Purgecss. It will remove all CSS classes that are not used in the project.

Setting up Purgecss

First, we need to instal npm package of purgecss.

npm install @fullhuman/postcss-purgecss --save-dev
# or
yarn add @fullhuman/postcss-purgecss --save-dev -D

Next, we need to configure our assets/postcss.config.js file

const purgecss = require("@fullhuman/postcss-purgecss")({
//File paths to all templates in our project.
content: ["../lib/**/*.eex", "../lib/**/*.leex"],
//Regular expression with each classes are determined
defaultExtractor: (content) => content.match(/[\w-/:]+(?<!:)/g) || [],
module.exports = {
plugins: [
// We are adding purgecss only for production builds
...(process.env.NODE_ENV === "production" ? [purgecss] : []),

One thing to note, purgecss will look for any string, that matches the regular expression above, so it is important to make sure, that class names are not created dynamically.

Snippet below is not correct

class="bg<%= if is_saved?(@var) do %>red<% else %>green<% end %>-100"

Instead, provide complete class names

class="<%= if is_saved?(@var) do %>bg-red-100<% else %>bg-green-100<% end %>"

We are almost there, we added purgecss plugin, we updated our postcss.config.js file, now we just need to make sure, that when we are preparing assets for production, purgecss plugin is used. For this, we can update deploy command in package.json by adding NODE_ENV=production.

"scripts": {
"deploy": "NODE_ENV=production webpack --mode production",
"watch": "webpack --mode development --watch"

Or, we can also pass NODE_ENV when we are actually calling the deploy command.

npm install
NODE_ENV=production npm run deploy

Just make sure, you are not setting NODE_ENV before npm install command, as it will then install only non-dev dependencies, which we don’t want.

At this point, our generated css file should be a lot smaller compared to the non-purged css file. In my app, generated css file went from over 900kb to 39kb. Of course, this will heavily depend on how many how heavily css classes from Tailwind CSS are used, and custom classes your application has.

For more details on how to further optimize css build, you can visit oficial guide from Tailwind CSS team

If you have any questions, you can ping on twitter

Hi 👋🏻, I'm Askar - Software Developer from Munich
I'm currently working with Typescript/React/NodeJS, learning Elixir and some Ops