How to Wash or Clean the American Flag

The American flag is a fixture on many homes across the country. What happens if it starts to age? If your flag has seen better days, give it the star-spangled treatment with these storage tips that will respectfully preserve Old Glory.

Never dump a flag. Though your flag is in storage, it must always be treated with respect. Never throw away the flag – your local Boy Scout or American Legion chapter can provide you with more information about proper burning protocol and retirement ceremonies.

Do not fold the flag, if possible. This is especially crucial if you plan to store the flag long-term, as sharp folds can lead to permanent creases in the fabric over time. (Military tradition of folding does not apply, according to Congress.) The best way to store the flag is flat on a table large enough to accommodate it. If that’s not an option, gently roll the flag around an acid-free paper-wrapped mailing tube, which can be found at most major craft stores.

Remove dirt and dust – carefully. If your flag is looking worse for wear, don’t bring it to the dry cleaner. Flag fabric is fragile and can become damaged if not handled properly. If the flag is an heirloom piece, consult your local historical society or museum for a professional recommendation. If you’d like, you can DIY with a low-pressure vacuum. After cleanup, quickly cover the flag with acid-free paper.

Stow away from ultraviolet light. Like upholstered furniture or window coverings, flags can fade if exposed to excessive sunlight. It can also make the fabric brittle. A dark or dim storage area will work best to preserve the color and pattern.

Consider climate-controlled storage. A self-storage unit is the best way to ensure your flag won’t be vulnerable to drastic temperature and humidity changes. Aim for a relative humidity range of 55 to 75 percent, and avoid storing your flag in the basement, especially if it is prone to mold, and in the attic, which can become very hot in warmer months.