How Long Should My American Flag Last?

Whether you purchase the nylon or polyester flag material your american flag will eventually tear and fade. Therefore, there is no exact or definite answer for this question.

The U.S. Government usually expects a flag to last 90 days based on daily usage from sunrise to sunset – but not during periods of inclement weather. Flags that are subject to flight 24 hours a day will have a shorter life than those flown only during daylight hours.

Factors that limit the life of your flag are wind, rain, sun and airborne contaminates such as pollutants, smoke and dirt. Remembering to take your flag down in inclement weather will help in lengthening the life of your flag.

There are ways to help lengthen the life of your flag:

1. Take it down during inclement weather.
Wind is much more forceful during storms. High winds will whip your flag causing it to contract and expand which weakens the fabric. Rain has much the same effect, as the fabric tends to “expand” with water weight and contract upon drying. If your flag does get wet, take it down to dry. Drying your flag on a flat surface helps it retain its shape. If it is allowed to dry on the pole it may stretch the material due to the “weight hang”.

2. Clean your flag regularly.
Cleaning your flag often removes dirt and contaminants that may lodge in the material. You can clean your flag by washing it in warm water and mild detergent. It is best to handwash your flag as you do not want to let it sit in wash water, which may cause color run on the white stripes. If you are uncomfortable handwashing your flag most dry cleaners usually offer discounts for cleaning the American flag.

3. Keep the fly end away from obstruction.
To cut down on tearing, make sure you do not fly your flag where it can get caught on obstructions such as roofs, tree branches, wires, cables etc.

4. Watch for signs of wear.
Flag life can often be extended by a little “Tender Loving Care”. If you check for small tears and repair them before they become large rips your flag will have a longer life.

The most important thing to remember is that your american flag is a patriotic symbol but it is also made of cloth. It has been fortified to stand up to the elements but eventually it will succumb to them. However, with a little vigilance and care a longer flag life can be achieved.
Once your flag is beyond repair you must retire it. Retiring your flag is the proper, dignified way to dispose of the flag. The United States Flag Code states “ The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no long a fitting emblem of display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” Although there is no official ceremony, you should dispose of your flag with a solemn dignified event in a non-public location. If you do not feel qualified to retire the flag on your own you can always contact your local Boy Scouts or Veterans of Foreign War organization. These organizations have regular ceremonies and will be glad to retire your flag with honor and dignity.

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