Repair and Disposal of Worn Flags
If your American flag is beginning to look dirty or dingy, washing it may save it from an early retirement. The Flag Code does not prohibit washing flags. In fact washing your flag on a regular basis can prolong its life. Most outdoor flags can be hand-washed with a mild laundry detergent. If you're not sure if your flag can be washed, or of the proper washing procedure, take it to the dry cleaners. Many offer free flag-cleaning services, especially in the month of July.
Despite the common myth, flags that touch the ground do not need to be destroyed. If your flag does touch the ground, and it gets dirty, simply wash it. Allowing a flag to touch the ground is disrespectful to the flag, but of course accidents do happen. Just try to prevent it from happening again.
As long as the flag is serviceable, it is acceptable to repair minor damages. While it is permitted to do repairs yourself, taking your flag to a seamstress may be a safer option. It's important that the repairs are not noticeable, and that the dimensions of the flag aren't altered. Flags with large tears or excessive fraying should be retired.
To avoid damage to your flag, bring it inside in bad weather, and make sure your flagpole or staff is in good condition. Rust can corrode your flag. If you are putting a flag into storage, make sure it is dry and the bag or container locks out moisture. Mold and mildew can grow on damp fabric.
According to the Flag Code, any American flag that is worn, damaged or tattered beyond repair should be retired in a respectful and dignified manner. The preferred method is burning. This may shock some, since it is a well known fact that burning the flag is illegal. This, however, is an exception to the rule. You can burn the flag yourself, making sure it is done in a discreet and professional manner, or many organizations like the American Legion, the Boy Scouts Council and the Girl Scouts Council will perform a flag retirement ceremony and burn your flag for you. In this case, burning signifies purification and rebirth.
Although burning is the preferred method, it is also acceptable to seal your old flag in a box or bag and bury it. <b>The most important factor is showing respect to the flag during its disposal.
To properly dispose of your worn or tattered flag by burning, please contact the local branch of the following organizations:
The American Legion
*If you are unable to find an organization in your area, you can send your flags to the Flag Disposal Service Program at FlagKeepers.org. The volunteers there will properly dispose of your worn flags at a patriotic flag retirement ceremony.
*Note: Nylon flags create hazardous gases when they are burned. Many states have outlawed the burning of nylon for that reason. A good alternative to dispose of nylon flags (or any flag) is recycling. To recycle a flag, simply write "Recycle" on the header of the flag before handing it over to your local Post or scout troop. The nylon will be reused in making new American flags. If nylon flags are not recycled, it is customary to cut the union from the field and dispose of the flag with the proper ceremony.
The Care and Display of the American Flag by the Editors of SharpMan.com 2004.
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