The United States Flag is arguably one of the most cherished symbols by Americans. Whether you fly your flag every day or on special occasions in honor of our country, it’s important to take proper care of it as a sign of respect. It is appropriate to wash your flag when it becomes soiled and starts to look like it’s in a bad state.
To be clear, the US Flag Code allows you to clean your flag by washing it.
The proper way to clean your flag
Regularly washing the American flag prolongs its life. While most modern outdoor flags are made from polyester, it’s not uncommon to find cotton flags. The safest way to wash fabrics with multiple colors is by hand in cool water using a gentle detergent. Test the flag’s fabric first if you suspect that it is colorfast. To do this, dip a cotton swab in plain water and rub the tip on each color on the flag. If any of the dye transfer to the cotton swab, there’s a good chance that the colors on the fabric will bleed when you wash the flag. In this case, consider replacing the flag.
Otherwise, if the flag fabric is not colorfast, you can clean it in the washing machine. Just be sure to use a gentle cycle. Also, make sure that you use cold water for the washing and rinsing to avoid excessive wrinkling and reduce the likelihood of color bleeding.
Avoid putting any flag in a hot laundry dryer. Dry on it a drying rack or hang it on the clothing line to drip dry. You can remove wrinkles by pressing them with an iron. Use a hot iron for cotton and a cool iron for polyester or nylon.
If you have a vintage flag and are not sure about what type of fabric it is, you’re better off taking it to dry cleaners who typically offer dry cleaning services for American flags, especially in July.
Removing stains from a flag
Your flag might become excessively dirty as a result of outdoor elements. If this happens, mix a solution of tepid water and an oxygen-based bleach in a large bathtub, plastic storage container, or large sink. Recommended bleach brands include OXO Brite, Nellie’s All Natural Oxygen Brightener, and OxiClean. Completely immerse the flag, and let it soak overnight. Then launder it as you normally would.
These bleaches are safe for both synthetic and natural fibers that are white or colored. If the stains persist, repeat the process until they’re gone.
Oxygen-based bleach solutions effectively remove color bleeding that occurs during previous washing. This process is, however, not effective in removing rust stains. Such stains need specialized products and treatment.
A clean flag attracts the right kind of attention
In addition to prolonging its life, you clean it to make it looks good. And if it looks good, you want it to be visible, which is why you should get high-quality lighting for flagpoles to make sure it’s visible even in the darkest of hours.