An American home proudly displaying their flag for a patriotic holiday Many Americans take great pride in flying the U.S. flag outside their homes, but they may not realize that it is a serious violation of flag etiquette to display a damaged flag. How long your flag lasts depends on a number of factors, such as the weather, the materials used, and if the flag is hung continuously. So, how do you keep your outdoor flag looking great all year around?

Choose the Right Materials

Flags, being made of cloth, will deteriorate eventually. The material the flag is made of is a huge indicator of how long your flag will last. For outdoor flags, there will always be a compromise between a lightweight material that flutters in the breeze and a strong material that can resist the elements. Most outdoor flag manufacturers will go for nylon or polyester, as these fabrics have a high enough tensile strength to withstand robust winds. There are also additional benefits; nylon flags wave even in very light breezes, and the material dries very quickly. On the other hand, polyester flags are very resilient and suitable for use in strong winds, rain, and snow. Sometimes you will find outdoor flags made of cotton, but these are usually for presentation or ceremonies, as they take a long time to dry and don’t hang right when wet.

Keep an Eye on the Weather

wonderful shot of waving american flag with the sun behind It's hardly surprising that weather extremes can damage your flag. Many consider water —whether it is snow or rain—the greatest enemy of the outdoor flag. Keeping an eye on the weather and bringing in your flag when it's very windy or when heavy rain or snow is expected will significantly increase your flag's life expectancy. Just make sure to dry a wet flag unfolded on a flat surface or hanging to prevent the growth of mildew. The flag looks gorgeous in sunny weather, but it can cause the colors to fade eventually. If you are lucky enough to live in bright climates, make sure you invest in a flag with UV protection to prevent fading. Products such as Scotchgard can help your flag resist the elements, too.

Keeping Your Flag Clean

It is important to clean your outdoor flag, as it is regularly exposed to the elements, and flying a dirty American flag is a sign of disrespect. Wash nylon and polyester flags by hand with mild detergent. Don't ever put your flag in the machine to wash or dry, as it will lose its shape and the colors can fade. Also, remember to keep your flagpole clean and free from rust, which can transfer and mark your flag. Dirt and debris from overhanging wires or tree branches can also build up, so choose your flag’s position carefully.

Watch Out for Fraying

Patriotic elderly immigrant women making a flag during WWI The “fly” end of the flag is usually the first side to start fraying, but if caught early enough, you can repair frays and slow down further deterioration. In fact, trimming and re-hemming the edge of a flag will increase its lifespan considerably, without being noticeable from the ground. The key to preventing extensive damage is regular inspection and prompt repair at the first signs of fraying or loose threads.

Buy Two Flags and Rotate Them

If you buy two flags and rotate them, not only will they last longer individually, but you will always have a flag flying at your house or business. Testing has shown that a regular rest cycle will extend the life of the flag. Additionally, having two in rotation will mean you can keep a closer eye on any potential damage and keep on top of your flag maintenance with ease.

Buy the Right Flag for Your Needs

It’s best to select the right flag in the first place. We offer a wide choice of flags, including brands specifically designed for both indoor use and tough conditions outside.

Dispose of Your Flag Properly

Once a flag is damaged beyond repair, it should be disposed of correctly, preferably by burning it. Various places conduct regular flag burning ceremonies, such as your local American Legion Hall and Boy Scout Troops, particularly on Flag Day, June 14th. These official ceremonies are a wonderful way to retire Old Glory and honor the American Flag.