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How To Care For & Store The American Flag

October 21, 2021 3 min read 1 Comment

How To Care For & Store The American Flag

How to Correctly Care for and Store the American Flag


The United States Flag Code offers everyone a formal and unified manner to provide respectful care and storage. It unifies the traditional ways Americans pay homage while delivering specific instructions to follow.


When you want to care for and store the American flag correctly, the first step to review is the correct folding method.

Folded American Flag


You’ll start by folding the lower striped section over the blue starfield. The folded edge created from this action gets folded again toward the open edge.


That’s when a triangular fold begins from the stripes. Bring the corner of the folded edge to the open edge, then turn the outer point inward to create consecutive triangles. Continue with that process until you’ve completed the length of the flag. 


Once you’ve finished that work, you’re ready to discover how to care for and store your U.S. flag.


How to Care for Your American Flag


When you follow the manufacturer’s instructions to care for your U.S. flag, cotton or nylon, you will extend the life of you flag considerably.


Cloth materials always succumb to the elements and are best suited for indoor display.


When caring for your American flag, here are some tips to follow to preserve your investment.


  1. Use a flag made for exterior display only when flying one outside.
  2. It shouldn’t be exposed to high winds, rain, or snow because these elements shorten its lifespan considerably.
  3. If the U.S. flag gets wet, the best way to care for it is to spread it out flat so that it can dry completely. It should never be folded or rolled when damp.
  4. Dust, smoke, dirt, and other contaminants can create stains in an American flag that dull its luster. Cleaning it before these elements set in can preserve its quality and extend its life. Most outdoor flags only need a mild detergent and warm water to remove soiling.
  5. Avoid having the flag soak in detergent water because the red or blue colors can bleed into the white with some materials.
  6. Parade and indoor flags often require professional dry cleaning to preserve their quality. Many businesses that offer this service provide it free or at a substantial discount, especially around the Fourth of July or Flag Day.
  7. The U.S. Flag should not be placed where the wind can push it into rough surfaces. Cables, tree branches, and other obstacles can cause tears that eventually lead to tattering.
  8. All flagpole surfaces require ongoing cleaning and care to prevent dirt buildup and corrosion. Rusty spots are known to damage American flags.


When you display the U.S. flag, it helps to inspect it regularly for signs of wear and tear. You might see thread or fabric breaks forming on the flying end of the material.

Damaged American FlagAmerican Flag with Frayed Ends


Another place to look for damage with your American flag is around the grommets. When tears happen there, severe problems can develop quickly.

American Flag Grommet


How to Store Your American Flag


When it is time to bring your U.S. flag in for the evening, the best storage place is a dark, cool spot. If it receives exposure to bright light, the fading process can hasten. Fabric deterioration can also occur, especially when humidity levels are excessively high or low inside.


Most people know that the American flag should not touch the ground. Even when you keep it in an appropriate storage container, it should remain elevated on a shelf. 


Since many American flags are made from cotton or nylon, storing them in a high-moisture environment can damage them quickly. Try to avoid storing it in a basement, garage, or closet close to a bathroom.


Storing a flag in the attic can pose pest and heat problems that could ruin it.


If you use mothballs or other pesticides, keep the U.S. flag away from these items. The chemicals they contain are often harmful to the fabric.


When you use your American flag infrequently, the best way to store it is flat or in a designated storage container. Anything made from acid-free materials is your best choice. If you must use wood, it helps to seal the organic surfaces to preserve the color and quality.


Acid-free paper or tissue also helps to preserve the flag while in storage. You can also use an unbleached cotton cloth. 


Once the flag does wear out, the respectful way to retire it is to contact a local Veteran’s Association. These groups often have an annual ceremony to burn all the flags that wore out through the year. It should never just get tossed in the trash.

American Flag Scout Disposal


When you follow these tips, your U.S. flag can display proudly as the symbol of freedom it is for years to come.  

Pacific Historic Parks
Pacific Historic Parks

1 Response

Sid Marcy
Sid Marcy

March 31, 2023

On the morning of December 7, 1941, as a flight of Japanese planes flew low over us, I stood with my mother looking down at the harbor where my father and so many others struggled for survival. DS Marcy, the junior medical officer on the Pennsylvania (BB-38), was at the end of his duty watch and the senior medical officer had just relieved him when the attack began. My father survived the attack, the senior medical officer did not.

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