Keeping your star-spangled banner clean and in new condition is important and easy to do. To extend its life, proper flag care and maintenance is essential. The best way to begin caring for your flag is to know when to display it and when to store it. Outdoor flags should never be exposed to storms, snow, or extremely high winds, as these conditions can shorten its lifespan. If your flag gets wet, lay it flat and let it dry completely. Folding when wet can create permanent creases, and dampness can ruin the fabric and cause mildew.
How to Wash
Regularly cleaning your flag will keep it looking its best and extend its lifetime. If your outdoor flag becomes dirty, it can be handwashed with mild detergent then thoroughly rinsed and laid flat to dry. When washing, it’s important not to let the flag stand in the wash water for an extended period time, because dye from the red stripes could run into the white. Indoor and parade flags, however, should always be dry-cleaned to protect the fabric and richness of the colors. (According to USAGov, many dry cleaners offer free flag cleaning in the months of June and July.) You may want to treat your flag with a fabric protection product like 303 Fabric Guard®. This will waterproof the fabric and protect it from stains, mildew, and UV rays.
Where to Hang
Another consideration in caring for your flag is deciding where to hang it. A flag should be flown in an area where it cannot come into contact with tree limbs, buildings, or cable and telephone wires, since they can create tears in the fabric. If tears occur, repair them carefully using patches that match the flag’s original color and make sure the repairs don’t alter the original dimensions of the flag. For tears at the end of the flag, repair them by trimming the end and re-hemming. The flagpole is also an important part of keeping your flag in good condition. A rusty pole can cause permanent stains, and some metallic oxides can eat holes through the fabric.
(courtesy of Boy Scouts of America)
How to Store
When storing your flag, be sure to fold it correctly before placing in a safe, dry, and cool environment. Outdoor flags should be sealed in moisture- and bug-proof plastic bags before going into storage. By following all of these simple cleaning and storage guidelines, you can help extend the life of your flag, and keep it flying for years to come.
Using a Flag Case
For properly displaying a memorial, burial, or interment flag, consider the use of hardwood flag cases and flag boxes, designed to hold a 5′ x 9 1/2′ flag. Flag cases are designed to assist you in proudly protecting, preserving and displaying your flag.
Lucie Voves is the Founder and CEO of Church Hill Classics/diplomaframe.com.