How To: Clean An American Flag

How To: Clean An American Flag

Sarah Rae Smith
Jul 17, 2008

There was a slight run in this week with a bird (the culprit has yet to reveal itself), the flag that hangs on the front porch and said bird's bathroom habits. We then made it our business to get the bird's business out of our beloved flag... Check out the facts on flag cleaning after the jump.

Tossing a flag into the normal load of laundry seemed a bit less than Patriotic, so we googled our way around the internet to see what was suggested. Here's a few tips and tricks to help you keep Old Glory spic and span.

1) If your flag is very old, more than 40 years, you should not attempt to wash or dry clean it, except with the advice of a professional conservator. They will be able to determine the condition of the fabric and if it's safe to wash.

2) If your flag has been kept indoors, showing no visable stains, but is dusty, place cheesecloth over the brush attachment of a vacuum cleaner and gently pat the surface to remove any dirt or dust.

3) The preferred method inorder to retain the durability of the fabric, is to take it in to your local dry cleaners. They will typically clean your flags at no charge. Especially around major Patriotic holidays. Just give your local cleaner a call before you take your laundry in next time and see if they will freshen it up for you. (P.S. Dry cleaning is a must for a flag that has tassels or rope.)

4) If you must, washing a flag by hand is also appropriate. Stain treat any stains or spots (stupid bird) only if you are sure of the color fastness of your flag. Fill a wash basin or sink with cool water and laundry soap and scrub the fabric by hand. Most good-quality American flags are made of acetate, nylon and cotton. Acetate is used for the red stripes, nylon for the white stripes and cotton for the blue field. Usually, these types of American flags are sewn together with preshrunk cotton thread, preventing the fabric from puckering when washed. Once your flag is clean, you can lay it flat to dry or iron on a flat surface (without letting it touch the ground of course).

Photo by mellow guy via Flickr.

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