How To Properly Care For Your American Flag

Written by
Aaron Brandel
Published on
October 11, 2021 at 4:02:36 PM PDT October 11, 2021 at 4:02:36 PM PDTth, October 11, 2021 at 4:02:36 PM PDT
  •  Aaron Brandel

You’ve purchased a beautiful American flag and displayed it proudly and patriotically. Now it’s time to store and maintain the flag, and you have questions. Here are answers about how to show proper respect to the flag, including cleaning your flag, folding it, and disposing of it with honor when it’s time.

Let’s start at the end. You’ve finished with your display and lower the flag into waiting arms. Unfortunately, a gust of wind arises at the worst time, and the flag is blown onto the ground and dragged. Does a flag need to be destroyed after touching the ground?

According to The American Legion, destroying a flag that’s touched the ground is unnecessary. Of course, you want to keep your flag as pristine as possible. And you never want to display or handle the flag in such a way that it can easily be dirtied or damaged. However, if it does get dirty or damaged from touching the ground or by other circumstances, the flag does not need to be destroyed. Instead, you simply take steps to clean it and make it suitable for display again. Which brings us to our next question.


Is it acceptable to wash or dry clean a soiled flag?

Yes, those are acceptable practices to keep your flag in display shape. You can also repair a damaged flag, such as through sewing. Bear in mind that flags have prescribed proportions. That means a flag that’s been washed or repaired and is now smaller no longer conforms to the proper flag measurements under Executive Order 10834.

Did You Know? There is no official breach of Flag Code in disrespecting a piece of clothing that looks like the flag. Digitized images also do not fall under the current Flag Code.


How should a flag be folded?

Storing the flag in between uses is something that should be done carefully. Certainly, you don’t want to store it in any location where it can be easily damaged. Beyond the location, you also don’t want to store the flag in a disrespectful manner. It would not be appropriate, for example, to ball the flag up and put it in the back of a closet. Instead, when Old Glory is not flying, it is proper etiquette to fold it in the following way:

Step One: Fold the flag lengthwise. Bring the lower edge horizontally flush with the upper edge.

Step Two: Fold the flag lengthwise again. Bring the central fold horizontally flush with the upper edge.

Step Three: The person at the fly end (the non-stars end) should touch the lower corner to the upper edge diagonally, forming a triangle with the fly end.

Step Four: Fold the triangle inward towards the stars end. The wide part of the triangle should now be flush (parallel) with the top (unfolded) edge.

Step Five: Keep folding the triangle inward until you have one large triangle with only blue and stars visible.

Did you know? Changes to the Flag Code can only be made by Congress or the President.


Why do we fold the flag 13 times?

The most common explanation for the meaning of each step is as follows:

  1. The first fold symbolizes life.
  2. The second fold symbolizes eternal life.
  3. The third fold is to honor and remember veterans.
  4. The fourth fold represents human weakness.
  5. The fifth fold is a tribute to our country.
  6. The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie.
  7. The seventh fold is a tribute to the Armed Forces.
  8. The eighth fold represents sacrifice.
  9. The ninth fold is a tribute to women in general and mothers in particular.
  10. The tenth fold is a tribute to the father who’s given his children to the country’s defense.
  11. The eleventh fold represents the lower portion of King David’s seal.
  12. The twelfth fold is an emblem of eternity.
  13. With the thirteenth fold, the canton (stars section) is uppermost. This is a reminder of faith and trust.

Did You Know? A fully folded flag is said to look like George Washington’s trademark three-cornered hat.


What happens when your flag is no longer suitable for display due to dirt or damage?

It is a violation of flag etiquette to fly or display a flag no longer in good condition. The best thing to do with a flag in such poor condition that it is unserviceable is to destroy it in a dignified manner. Burning is the preferred method, but you should be discreet about it. The last thing you want is for your respectful act of burning an unserviceable flag to be perceived as an act of disrespect to the flag. Some patriotic organizations conduct solemn burning ceremonies periodically to assist the local community in disposing of unserviceable flags.


The Carrot-Top Promise

We started at the end, now let’s get back to the beginning -- the beautiful American flag in our opening sentence. Nobody sells higher quality flags than Carrot-Top. All of our American flags are made in America, and your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed.

If you are in need of patriotic products for your institution, business or home, Carrot-Top Industries welcomes the opportunity to meet your patriotic décor needs. Please contact our Customer Care Professionals at 800-628-3524, shop online or send us your product needs either by email or through our Contact Our Team online form. We offer fast shipping on all of our in-stock products.


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