Flag Care

Caring for your Flag

  • Do not store a damp flag. It can get moldy. Allow it to dry and store it in a moisture-proof container.
  • If your flag is dirty, you can hand wash it in cold water with mild detergent and allow it to air dry. You can also take it to the dry cleaners. Washing your flag regularly will increase its lifespan.
  • You can do minor repairs to your flag as long as they are not noticeable and it is still a fitting emblem. Flags in bad condition should be retired and replaced. More on Flag Repair & Disposal.
  • Position your flagpole in a clear area where your flag won’t whip against rough surfaces, branches or anything it can snag on.
  • Keep your flagpole clean and in good repair. Rust can stain and corrode your flag and rough edges can tear it.

Your Flag’s Lifespan

A flag’s lifespan is often in the hands of its owner. The U.S. Government estimates that a nylon flag will last about 90 days if it is only flown from sunrise to sunset in good weather. Flags flown 24 hours a day will typically last one half to one third as long. Larger flags have a shorter life than smaller ones because they are exposed to higher wind speeds and the fly ends have a stronger whiplash effect.

Washing Your Flag

If your American flag is beginning to look dirty or dingy, washing it may save it from an early retirement. The Flag Code does not prohibit washing flags. In fact washing your flag on a regular basis can prolong its life. Most outdoor flags can be hand-washed with a mild laundry detergent. If you’re not sure if your flag can be washed, or of the proper washing procedure, take it to the dry cleaners. Many offer free flag-cleaning services, especially in the month of July. Despite the common myth, flags that touch the ground do not need to be destroyed. If your flag does touch the ground, and it gets dirty, simply wash it. Allowing a flag to touch the ground is disrespectful to the flag, but of course accidents do happen. Just try to prevent it from happening again.

High winds ruin Flags

Strong winds and rain can cause damage to flags of many fabrics. Even all-weather flags will wear faster in these conditions. A 300 Mile per hour gust, quite possible on top of a mountain or with a tall flagpole will shred a flag in seconds. When you hear a sharp, snapping sound, your flag is about to be toast. Don’t fly flags during windspeeds exceeding 50 Mph.

It’s best to take flags down in bad weather. It’s also important to check your flag regularly for damage. Larger flags (10ft x 15ft and up) need to be checked for wear at least twice a month. Many people will buy two flags and rotate them frequently. That way one flag can be repaired and cleaned while the other is displayed.

Rain is tough on Flags

Rain will wash out the color on any flag. A heavy flag will also take a worse beating than one that is kept dry. Use your smarts… if it’s gray and windy, don’t fly the flag.

Don’t fly a dirty Flag

It is good practice to keep your flags clean. Keeping your flags free from dirt can greatly improve the flags life. Dirt is sharp, it cut’s fabric, it dulls colors and causes wear. Most outdoor flags can be washed in a mild detergent. Rinse them thoroughly. Parade flags should be dry cleaned.

Do not store wet Flags

Sometimes you will face the dilemma of having to get your flag out of the rain. Do not bunch up the flag and let it sit wet. Mildew and other great things shall grow exponentially. Hang up the flag as you would a nice shirt.Wet folds can turn into permanent creases…

Flags suffer from air pollution

Dirt, smoke, exhaust or dust can cause your flag to age before their time. Some exhaust – such as that of nearby factories can actually destroy flag material. Please fight Air-Pollution in your neighborhoods.

Contact with gasoline or oil

Petroleum products are hazardous to Nylon materials. It is wise to keep your flags away from all Oil and Gasoline. Marine flags are especially susceptible to damage by petroleum products.Do not handle your flags with greasy hands.

Pole paint and metallic oxides

Pole care is related to flag care. Rusty, pock marked poles chafe and tear flag fabric and stitching. Rust and scale cause permanent stains. Rust actually eats holes into the flags. Inspect your flagpoles.

Beware! Chemicals hurt flags

Do not store your flag next to an assortment of chemicals. Many people collect paints, solvents, home-improvement stuff in their basements. Flags can decompose in just slight amounts of chemical vapor. Allow your flags room to breathe.

No excuse for neglected frays

Give your flag the attention it deserves. Watch the corners of your flag. As long as the flag is serviceable, it is acceptable to repair minor damages. While it is permitted to do repairs yourself, taking your flag to a seamstress may be a safer option. It’s important that the repairs are not noticeable, and that the dimensions of the flag aren’t altered. Flags with large tears or excessive fraying should be retired. To avoid damage to your flag, bring it inside in bad weather, and make sure your flagpole or staff is in good condition. Rust can corrode your flag. If you are putting a flag into storage, make sure it is dry and the bag or container locks out moisture. Mold and mildew can grow on damp fabric.

What do I do with my old U.S. Flag?

You can find more information about what to do with the U.S. Flag as it wears down in Flag Repair & Disposal.

Generally, If a Flag has deteriorated, it is put to rest through burning in respectful fashion. You may wish to check with one of your local military organizations such as the VFW, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, Organization of Vietnam Veterans, or your local Marine Core League to name a few. These organizations represent the essence of what our flag stands for and made a substantial investment in its defense.