• Aug 2, 2021
  • 5:31 PM

Top 10 Things to Know about Flag Retirement


(Las Vegas & Reno, NV)

Monday, June 14, 2021 is Flag Day. It sits right between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, which are two perfect times to proudly display your American flag. But time, elements, even storage can take a toll on your flag leaving it weathered, worn, and ready for retirement.  

When to Retire 

Are you unsure about whether your flag needs to be retired? According to the Flag Code, “when [a flag] is in such a condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, [it] should be destroyed in a dignified way…”. The American Legion’s ‘Top Ten’ Flag Myths can help you decide.  For example, you can continue to use a flag that has touched the ground or covered a casket. 

You may want to check with your local American Legion, VFW, Boy Scout Troop or our our Northern and Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemeteries to inquire about flag retirement ceremonies as well as when and where you may drop off your flag for proper retirement 

That information may satisfy your flag retirement needs, but to learn more, check out our Top 10 List below!  

#10 – Ceremonial Flag Burning – Natural Fibers ONLY 

If you have a synthetic flag, see item #9! We know what you might be thinking, burning the flag, is a perfectly acceptable method for disposing of the flag, as long as it is done respectfully, and you are right! But REMEMBER, we live in WILDFIRE COUNTRY and you should check with your local fire department before considering burning a flag or anything else for that matter, in an open pit! If your fire department gives you the go-ahead, and you obtain right permits, flag burning can be done by folding the flag properly and then gently laying the flag on a pit or fire. You can have someone salute or recite the “Pledge of Allegiance, “or sing “The National Anthem" while the flag is burning. You can find instructions on how to properly fold your flag here: http://www.usflag.org/foldflag.html  The goal is to get a fire big enough and hot enough that nothing will remain of the flag after it has been burned. 

# 9 – Synthetic Flag Burning 

Burning nylon or a synthetic material is different from burning wool or cotton as the synthetic materials can create hazardous gases or vapors, because these synthetic materials can be petroleum-based. On the positive side, these synthetic materials can hold their colors and last much longer than natural cloth or fibers. But when it is time to retire the synthetic fabric flag, instead of burning it, there are some who recycle synthetic flags to make brand new ones! One of the main companies that accepted synthetic flags for retirement has placed its program on hold. So, Bryan ON Scouting recommends cutting the flag in a special way so that it is no longer a flag. Information on how to do that is HERE and HERESee Items #8 and #7 on this list.  

#8 – Flag Burial 

Another acceptable method for disposing of your flag is to bury it. To do this fold the flag properly. (See link under item #1 on this list, for proper flag folding.) Then, place the flag carefully in a dignified box for burying. You can take this time to say aloud what the flag means to you as you bury it in the ground. 

 

#7 – Flag Shredding 

We know this doesn’t sound right, but shredding the flag can be appropriate when done properly. If you decide to shred your flag, it is recommended you get a nice, sharp, pair of scissors and cut each of the 13 stripes very carefully from each other, leaving the blue field and stars intact. Be careful to not let the pieces touch the ground (Maybe assign someone to hold each of the pieces as they are being cut). Once all of the pieces have been cut, you can dispose of the flag by either burning or burying it per the instructions above. 

 

#6 – Flag Touches Ground 

This probably goes without saying but don’t let it touch the ground! Still, accidents happen. If it touches the ground don’t fret. Just carefully pick up the flag. There is a misconception that if a flag touches the ground, it MUST be retired. Our experts tell us, that’s not always the case, particularly if it remains suitable for display, so keep that in mind! 

#5  Repurposing– DON’T 

Flag recycling used to be very popular but changes to worldwide recycling rules have forced many companies to stop accepting flags. You may be looking at that ripped flag and think, “Hey, I could use that as a bandana or make cute baby clothes out of what is left!” Please, don’t! We appreciate your patriotism and desire to repurpose “Old Glory," but please do not use the flag for any other purpose than for what it is intended for, which is to be displayed in a place of honor and respect. 

 

#4 – Don’t Throw It Away 

This also probably goes without saying but throwing your flag in a trash can would be extremely disrespectful to the flag! The rules we observe are laid out in the U.S. Code with Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8 under, “Respect for Flag," stating: “The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water or merchandise. In paragraph (k) it also states: “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, it should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning. 

 

#3 – Washing or Dry Cleaning  

Sometimes your flag is just a little soiled or dirty. Despite misconceptions, there is nothing in the U.S. Flag Code that prohibits washing or dry cleaning, depending on the material. If it is soiled in a small area, it is recommended you spot clean using a damp rag with a mild detergent. Synthetic flags, nylon or polyester, can be machine washed with cold water and a mild detergent. Do not let the flag stand in the wash water for extended periods of time or color transfer may occur. Flags should be placed flat to dry. Ironing a synthetic flag may cause it to melt! Natural fiber flags, made of cotton or wool, need to be handled with greater care. Spot cleaning or dry cleaning is recommended.  

 

#2 – Teaching Moment 

Whatever method you choose to dispose of your flag, you are encouraged to take this as an opportunity to gather with family, friends, and neighbors to show respect and honor to our flag. This is a great opportunity to talk about what it means with your children and show them the proper respect our flag deserves. 

 

#1 – Give It Away 

There are many qualified local organizations that provide flag disposal for you, including local chapters of the American Legion, VFW, Boy or Girl Scout Organizationsas well as some local fire departments. Additionally, the Nevada Department of  Veterans Services, through our Veterans Memorial Cemeteries, will be glad to dispose of your flag for you. If you’re unsure where to start, just contact the Nevada Department of Veterans Services at pioinfo@veterans.nv.gov and we can get you in contact with a qualified organization in your area. 

Happy Flag Day!  

#10 – Ceremonial Flag Burning – Natural Fibers ONLY 

If you have a synthetic flag, see item #9! We know what you might be thinking; burning the flag, is a perfectly acceptable method for disposing of the flag, as long as it is done respectfully, and you are right! But REMEMBER, we live in WILDFIRE COUNTRY and you should check with your local fire department before considering burning a flag or anything else for that matter, in an open pit! If your fire department gives you the go-ahead, and you obtain right permits, flag burning can be done by folding the flag properly and then gently laying the flag on a pit or fire. You can have someone salute or recite the “Pledge of Allegiance, “or sing “The National Anthem" while the flag is burning. You can find instructions on how to properly fold your flag here: http://www.usflag.org/foldflag.html  The goal is a fire big enough and hot enough that nothing will remain of the flag after it has been burned. 

# 9 – Synthetic Flag Burning 

Burning nylon or a synthetic material is different than burning wool or cotton as the synthetic materials can create hazardous gases or vapors; these synthetic materials can be petroleum-based. On the positive side, these synthetic materials can hold their colors and last much longer than natural cloth or fibers. But when it is time to retire the synthetic fabric flag, instead of burning it, there are some who recycle synthetic flags to make brand new ones! One of the main companies that accepted synthetic flags for retirement has placed its program on hold. So, Bryan ON Scouting recommends cutting the flag in a special way so that it is no longer a flag. Information on how to do that is HERE and HERESee Items #8 and #7 on this list.  

#8 – Flag Burial 

Another acceptable method for disposing of your flag is to bury it. To do this fold the flag properly. (See link under item #1 on this list, for proper flag folding.) Then, place the flag carefully in a dignified box for burying. You can take this time to say aloud what the flag means to you as you bury it in the ground. 

#7 – Flag Shredding 

We know this doesn’t sound right, but shredding the flag can be appropriate when done properly. If you decide to shred your flag, it is recommended you get a nice, sharp, pair of scissors and cut each of the 13 stripes very carefully from each other, leaving the blue field and stars intact. Be careful to not let the pieces touch the ground (Maybe assign someone to hold each of the pieces as they are being cut). Once all of the pieces have been cut, you can dispose of the flag by either burning or burying it per the instructions above. 

#6 – Flag Touches Ground 

This probably goes without saying but don't let it touch the ground! Still, accidents happen. If it touches the ground don’t fret. Just carefully pick up the flag. There is a misconception that if a flag touches the ground, it MUST be retired. Our experts tell us, that's not always the case, particularly if it remains suitable for display, so keep that in mind! 

#5  Repurposing– DON’T 

Flag recycling used to be very popular but changes to worldwide recycling rules have forced many companies to stop accepting flags. You may be looking at that ripped flag and think, “Hey, I could use that as a bandana or make cute baby clothes out of what is left!” Please, don't! We appreciate your patriotism and desire to repurpose “Old Glory," but please do not use the flag for any other purpose than for what it is intended for, which is to be displayed in a place of honor and respect. 

#4 – Don't Throw It Away 

This also probably goes without saying but throwing your flag in a trash can would be extremely disrespectful to the flag! The rules we observe are laid out in the U.S. Code with Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8 under, “Respect for Flag," stating: “The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water or merchandise. “In paragraph (k) it also states: “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, it should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning". 

#3 – Washing or Dry Cleaning  

Sometimes your flag is just a little soiled or dirty. Despite misconceptions, there is nothing in the U.S. Flag Code that prohibits washing or dry cleaning, depending on the material. If it is soiled in a small area, it is recommended you spot clean using a damp rag with a mild detergent. Synthetic flags, nylon or polyester, can be machine washed with cold water and a mild detergent. Do not let the flag stand in the wash water for extended periods of time or color transfer may occur. Flags should be placed flat to dry. Ironing a synthetic flag may cause it to melt! Natural fiber flags, made of cotton or wool, need to be handled with greater care. Spot cleaning or dry cleaning is recommended.   

#2 – Teaching Moment 

Whatever method you choose to dispose of your flag, you are encouraged to take this as an opportunity to gather with family, friends, and neighbors to show respect and honor to our flag. This is a great opportunity to talk about what it means with your children and show them the proper respect our flag deserves. 

#1 – Give It Away 

There are many qualified local organizations that provide flag disposal for you, including local chapters of the American Legion, VFW, Boy or Girl Scout Organizationsas well as some local fire departments. Additionally, the Nevada Department of Veterans Services, through our Veterans Memorial Cemeteries, will be glad to dispose of your flag for you. If you're unsure where to start, just contact the Nevada Department of Veterans Services at pioinfo@veterans.nv.gov and we can place you in contact with a qualified organization in your area. 

Happy Flag Day!