American Flag Etiquette: Display, Cleaning, & Storage

American flag on a flag pole

Everyone knows a 4th of July celebration is not complete without a barbecue, fireworks, and of course, Old Glory prominently displayed. While American flag etiquette, like never letting the flag touch the ground, is widely understood, other details like how to properly display and store your flag are lesser known. As this fun and special holiday approaches, we've gathered some patriotic tips to help you display, store, and clean your flag so that it's preserved for years to come. Happy Birthday, America!


When displaying the American flag, be sure not to leave it in bright sunlight for too long to prevent fading and damage. Additionally:

  • From a staff projecting from a window, balcony, or a building, the union (stars) should be at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff.
  • Over a street, it should be hung vertically, with the union to the north or east. If the flag is suspended over a sidewalk, the flag’s union should be farthest from the building.
  • Vertically or horizontally against a wall, the union (stars) should be at the top, to the flag’s own right, and to the observer’s left.
  • On a flag pole, no other flag or pennant should be placed above that of the United States of America, except during church services conducted by naval chaplains at sea for personnel of the Navy


If your flag is more than 30 years old, do not wash or dry clean it without the advice of a professional conservator. The best way to clean an American flag that’s a little older is by vacuuming them gently using a brush attachment covered by a clean piece of cheesecloth. Vacuum the fabric by gently patting the surface as if you were blotting it.

New flags should be cleaned when they are stored. Depending on your flag's material, it can be washed gently by hand using a mild soap.


When you are ready to pack away your American flag, you should:

  • Store the flag in a dark, cool place. Bright light such as sunlight can cause fading and deterioration of fabrics. Humidity and rooms where temperatures vary greatly can also damage your flag as well
  • Avoid storing your flag in garages, basements, and attics – the risks of damage to fabrics are high in these areas.
  • Never use pesticides or mothballs in areas where your flag is in storage because they contain chemicals that are harmful to fabrics.
  • Only fold your flag the official style when it is in regular use since prolonged storage in that way will lead to permanent creases.
  • Store your flag completely flat when it is displayed infrequently. You could also roll and store the flag in a storage tube made of acid-free material. Avoid using cardboard or wood containers to prevent damage.
  • Use acid-free tissue paper or clean, unbleached cotton cloth when storing your flag.

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