Repair & Disposal
Repairing 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.
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.
The United States Flag Code states: "The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning." The Flag Code does not actually give specifics on how to destroy the flag. One should use common sense making sure the procedure is in good taste and shows no disrespect for the flag. Many of the following organizations have collections in your local community to collect and perform a flag burning ceremony: American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of America, Mayor, City Hall or other patriotic organizations.
To properly dispose of your worn or tattered flag by burning, please contact the local branch of the following organizations.
The American Legion
If you are unable to find an organization in your area, you can send your flags to the Flag Disposal Service Program at FlagKeepers.org. The volunteers there will properly dispose of your worn flags at a patriotic flag retirement ceremony.
NOTE: You can burn the flag yourself, making sure it is done in a discreet and professional manner. BUT, nylon flags create hazardous gases when they are burned. Many states have outlawed the burning of nylon for that reason. A good alternative to dispose of nylon flags (or any flag) is recycling. To recycle a flag, simply write "Recycle" on the header of the flag before handing it over to your local Post or scout troop. The nylon will be reused in making new American flags. If nylon flags are not recycled, it is customary to cut the union from the field and dispose of the flag with the proper ceremony.
Although burning is the preferred method, it is also acceptable to seal your old flag in a box or bag and bury it. The most important factor is showing respect to the flag during its disposal.
The National Flag Foundation recommends the following as the proper ceremonies for retiring and destroying a worn Flag: