A common household décor is the American flag but exposure to wind, rain, sun, and dust can leave it looking dirty. You might wonder if it’s okay to wash an American flag. After all, there’s an entire section of the U.S. Code devoted to its federal regulations. Yes - it’s considered respectful to keep it clean and in good repair.
How to Wash a Flag
Before you clean a flag, you first need to know what material it’s made from—look for a label or tag. The label may also give you care instructions, but if not, you have three options.
Machine wash – Flags made from synthetic fabrics (nylon and polyester) are usually safe to machine-wash in cold water on delicate using a mild detergent. Lay flat or hang to dry only. Cool iron if needed.
Hand wash – For flags made from natural fabrics (cotton) gentle hand-washing with an oxygen-based or all-fabric bleach and cold-to-lukewarm water. The oxygen-based bleach and cold water can help prevent color bleeding. Do not put natural-fabric flags in the dryer, as the high heat can be harmful.
Dry clean – If your flag has sentimental value or you’re unsure of the material makeup, bring it to a professional dry cleaner. Many will clean American flags at a reduced price.
Tip: Check if the flag is colorfast by rubbing a water-dampened cotton swab on a small area of each color of the flag. If any color transfers to the cotton swab, the colors will likely bleed when washing.
What to Do with a Damaged Flag
When a flag has become frayed, faded, or damaged beyond repair it should be given a dignified disposal. The U.S Code suggests burning it, but you may also wish to find a local veterans’ organization, or scout troop who will dispose of it properly.
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