Can American Flags be Cleaned? A Guide to Proper Flag Maintenance
The American flag is not just a piece of fabric; it's a symbol of our country's history, values, and pride. Over time, flags may become dirty or soiled, leading many to wonder whether it's appropriate or even possible to clean them. The good news is that American flags can indeed be cleaned, but there are specific considerations and methods you should follow to ensure the flag is treated with the respect it deserves.

Understanding the Guidelines

According to the United States Flag Code, which provides detailed instructions on how to handle and display the American flag, there is no prohibition against washing or dry-cleaning flags. The Flag Code emphasizes the need for the flag to be displayed prominently and in good condition, implying that cleaning a soiled flag not only is permissible but also is a sign of respect. Cleaning Methods

1. Washing

For flags made of nylon, polyester, or cotton, hand washing with mild detergent in cool water is the safest method. It's important to rinse the flag thoroughly to remove all soap residues and then allow it to air dry completely. Do not wring the flag to remove excess water, as this can damage the fabric or the stitching.

2. Machine Washing

Machine washing is an option for durable flags, but it should be done on a gentle cycle with cold water and mild detergent. Again, air drying is recommended, though flags can be tumble dried on the lowest heat setting if necessary.

3. Dry Cleaning

Some flags, especially those made from delicate materials or historical flags, may require dry cleaning. This is particularly true for flags that have significant value or those that cannot withstand water. Before choosing this method, check the flag's care label or consult with a professional dry cleaner who has experience with flags.

4. Professional Cleaning

For very old or valuable flags, professional conservation is the best approach. This might be costly, but it's the safest way to clean these flags without causing damage. Professional conservators can assess the flag's condition and use specialized techniques to clean and preserve it.

Dos and Don'ts

  • Do check the flag's material and care instructions before attempting any cleaning.
  • Do not use harsh chemicals or bleach, as these can damage the flag's fibers and colors.
  • Do test a small, inconspicuous area of the flag first if you're unsure about the detergent's effect.
  • Do not display a wet or damp flag, as this can lead to mold or mildew formation.
  • Do repair any tears or damage before cleaning to prevent further deterioration.


Cleaning an American flag is not only possible but also a way to honor and respect the emblem of our nation. By following the proper methods and guidelines, you can ensure your flag remains a dignified symbol of freedom, bravery, and the American spirit. Whether you choose to wash it gently at home or opt for professional cleaning, the key is to handle the flag with the care and respect it deserves. Remember, a well-maintained flag reflects well on its owner and, by extension, on the nation it represents.
American flag