How to care & Dispose of an old american flag

I used to work in a thrift store and we had many people donating old U.S. flags to us. All I remember is that we needed to collect all the old flags and put them safely aside. Then the owners would dispose of them in a proper way. I didn’t know what they did with them, but I know they knew how to properly dispose of them.

Since then I decided to find out for myself exactly what options there are for proper retirement of a flag.

American flag waving with text of title

How to dispose of and American flag

There are a few ways you can dispose of old American flags in a dignified manner. This is outlined in our U.S. flag code, or federal flag code.

The U.S flag code reads:

“When a flag is so tattered that it no longer fits to serve as a symbol of the United States, it should be replaced in a dignified manner, preferably by burning.”

Even though the preferred way is burning, you should not burn old glory if it is made from synthetic materials as it will cause hazardous gases. So check the material of your flag before deciding how to dispose of it.

Instead you can bury the flag. It is customary to bury a flag after it has been folded into a triangle. It must then be placed in a wooden box and buried at least a few feet underground.

Lot’s of people have an official flag retirement ceremony before burning or burying a flag. This is a great us flag disposal technique that retires the flag in a respectful way.

If you don’t want to burn or bury your United States flags, or have your own ceremony for them, you have other options. There are many places that will accept a worn or tattered flag that is no longer fit for displaying.

white house with an American flag

list of possible flag disposal locations.

The Veterans of Foreign WarsAmerican Legion postBoy Scouts of AmericaGirl Scouts of the USA, the U.S. Military and other organizations regularly conduct dignified flag retirement ceremonies. You can check with your local state and town to see if there is a list of local drop-off centers with flag disposal boxes. There are also local organizations that will take your flag for proper disposal. Check your city hall, police stations, fire stations, or your local boy scout or girl scout troop.

I learned something interesting from the United States flag code.  “The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.” I thought that recycling an old flag into something beautiful would be a great way to give new life to retired flags. I guess I was wrong.


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Check out my post “How to Declutter” for some other great ideas for recycling old items.

How to care for your American flag

Storing your American Flag

If your flag is still in good shape, you can keep it that way by storing it properly when not being displayed. Fold the flag into the triangle shape with the union blue showing only when completely dry, and store it in a well ventilated area. Nothing should be below the flag and it should never touch the ground.

American flag

Bring your flag in during bad weather

To keep your flag in pristine condition, the best way is to bring it inside during inclement weather. High winds and rain will wear your flag out rather quickly. So bring it inside when the outside isn’t looking so good.

Cleaning your American Flag

If your flag is dirty you can clean it by hand using cold water and a mild detergent and let it soak. Or, if it’s a synthetic material you can throw it in the washing machine on the gentle cycle. Just do not put it in the dryer. Let it hang to dry then store it or hang it back outside on your flag pole.

Use these tips to keep your American flag is great shape for your next Memorial Day, official ceremony, Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem, Flag Day, moment of silence, or simply to show off your patriotism for the United States of America.

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