How to Clean the American Flag

American flag laid out on a table

You may love hanging the American flag in your yard as part of your patriotic garden, especially if you’re a retired veteran or have family members serving in the Armed Forces. Unfortunately, flags get dirty, just like any fabric left outside for extended periods.

Have you ever wondered, “Can you clean the American flag?” If so, the answer is simple – flying a dirty flag is poor etiquette, and dirt also wears out the flag faster, so cleaning it is not only possible but highly recommended.

The problem is that American flags can be tricky to wash. The bright red and dark blue dye can easily bleed onto the white areas if you’re not careful. With these tips on how to clean the flag, you’ll be ready to show your patriotism all summer long.

Wash Your Flag

Since different fabrics have different care instructions, the first step is to determine what material your American flag is made of. There may be a tag somewhere along the edge that identifies this.

  • For nylon, polyester, or other synthetic materials: Wash the flag in your washing machine on the delicate cycle with cold water and mild detergent. You can also hand wash the flag in cold water if you’re worried about the colors bleeding. Hang from a clothesline or lay flat to dry. Use a cool iron to remove wrinkles.
  • For wool, cotton, or other natural materials: It’s best to hand wash or dry clean delicate wool or cotton flags. When hand washing, use oxygen-based bleach and tepid water in the bathtub or a large plastic container. Submerge the flag and allow it to soak for at least four hours. Oxygen bleach can also help remove color bleeding from previous washes. Rinse the fabric in cold water, and then hang or lay flat to dry. Use a hot iron to remove wrinkles from natural fabric flags.

Tips for Keeping Your American Flag in Good Repair

Prolong the life of your American flag and reduce how often you must clean it with these tips:

  • Take the flag inside when it’s raining, snowing, sleeting, or hailing.
  • Never run a flag through the dryer.
  • After cleaning, let the flag dry completely before storing it.
  • Always check the care tag for material information and washing instructions. If no tag is present, you may launder the flag at your own risk. For the best results, take it to a professional dry cleaner.
  • Consider having sentimental flags preserved in a display case instead of flying them from a flagpole.

Repairing or Disposing of a Damaged American Flag

When a flag gets ripped, it’s appropriate to make small, discrete repairs. If you’re handy with a needle and thread, feel free to repair the hole yourself. Otherwise, take the flag to a tailor or conservator.

If the flag is ripped or frayed beyond repair, you should dispose of it respectfully. US Flag Code recommends burning it. Consider taking your tattered flag to a veteran organization or scouting troop to have it properly discarded.

Household Cleaning Services from Molly Maid

When it comes to keeping your house clean, you have far more to worry about than just the American flag you display in your yard. Hand over tedious housework to Molly Maid, and free up your time to do more of the things you love. Customize your services to include a single deep-cleaning, occasional cleaning, or routine assistance with household chores.

For more useful cleaning tips, or to hire a professional housekeeper in your area, please contact your local Molly Maid for a free in-home estimate.