Answers to Frequently Asked Flag Questions

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Answers to Frequently Asked Flag Questions
You can also call us for personal support at (262) 783-4800 ext. 14
or e-mail
Open Mon. – Fri. 9 AM – 5:30 PM CST

When should a flag be retired?
Repairing a flag
Selecting the right flag for your conditions
Cleaning your flag
How do I retire my flag?
Patriot Guard Displays


AFE Standards for when an American Flag Should Be Retired

On July 8, 2014 Mr. Redfield of Phoenix Arizona was concerned with a tattered flag in his community. He called our office , American Flags Express Inc. requesting guidelines as to when an American flag should be replaced. After a good amount of research, to our surprise the only standard we could find was:

When the flag is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display it should be destroyed in a dignified manner.

Obviously better guidelines are needed. So we began by reviewing thousands of American flags returned to our company for our recycling. American flags wear out in three different ways:

– Fading caused by UV exposure and precipitation
– Tearing or fraying typically starting on the upper fly corner due to wind and abrasion
– Grime caused by air pollution, dust and dirt

Our goal has been to develop simple rules that could be applied to all American flag sizes. After reviewing thousands of flags that have been returned to us for the purpose of recycling, we developed the following guidelines:

when to retire a flag

FRAYING – An American flag should be retired before fraying on-the-fly end approaches 1.25 times the height of the top red stripe

FADING – An American flag should be retired before the red or blue fades more than 20%

Military bases, public buildings, and prestige corporations will want to treat these guidelines as maximums and replace flags more often. It's important to keep in mind that once the flag begins to fray the damage travels quickly. It's better to replace or repair well before the guidelines above.


Repairing Flags

Rather than buying a new flag, you can have your flag repaired at a surprisingly low cost. Be sure to take it down at the first sign of any tear, this is to ensure we will have enough fabric to work with. If you are not sure if the flag is repairable, please email a photo of it to and we will reply within 24 hrs with a quote and turnaround time.

For flags 3'x5' to 5'x8' the cost to repair is usually between $15 and $18.
For flags 6'x10' and up, cost to repair is normally the length x2. For example: 6' x 10' flag ---- Length = 10 ft ---- 10 x 2 = $20
Individual quotes can vary depending on if the canvas header needs repairing or if extra fabric needs to be added.
Shipping is paid by customer.

If you'd like to send your flag in for a repair, please mark the package "FLAG FOR REPAIR" and we will contact you with your invoice right away.

Send to:
American Flags Express
12615 W Custer Ave
Butler, WI 53007

Tip: We offer the most weather resistant stitching materials and techniques, but any fabric in the wind will eventually break down. Many of our customers purchase two flags and fly one until the weather finally breaks the stitching. Send it in for repair and put up the second flag in the mean time. This is a great way to get the longest life out of your flag without having a bare flagpole.



Selecting the Correct Flag

Not sure which flag is right for you? Find help here.
Please don't hesitate to call us at (262) 783-4800 x14 and one of our knowledgable staff members will help you. Our hours are M-F 9AM to 5:30PM CST
Prefer email? Contact us at
We also have a live chat button on the left side of your screen


Cleaning Flags

Occasionally washing your flag in warm detergent water will prevent pollutants and dirt from weakening the fabric. Always let your flag dry thoroughly before storing it to prevent mildew or color transfer.



How do I retire my flag?


Recycling is a great alternative. Burning American flags made of nylon (a petroleum product) creates hazardous gases and wastes resources. A new nylon recycling process has been discovered that converts virtually 100% of a nylon flag back into virgin grade nylon material which can be made into another new American flag. American Flags Express Inc. is supporting this effort.

Please see
for details.



Patriot Guard Displays 

Patriot Guard customers subject our flags to some of the toughest conditions.
We recently received a gracious letter from a Patriot Guard member who loves our flags. He shared 3 important facts that will help extend the life of an American flag displayed on a motorcycle. The bottom line is smooth airflow over the flag surface will help reduce flag snap resulting in extended flag life. Laminar flow is important!



Proper Care of a Flag
Virtually all American flags are made from weather resistant synthetic fibers. Today's modern flags do not have to be taken down during winter or rainy seasons. The only exception would be extreme high winds and gusts during intense storms, tornadoes and hurricanes.

Are you supposed to take the flag down when it rains?
Most flags are made from synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester. These materials are considered all weather flags and don't have to be taken down on rainy days.

What holidays do you put the flag out?
It is proper to display an American flag 365 days per year. An extra effort should be made on Peace Officers Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial day, flag day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Patriots' Day, National POWs Day, Fallen Firefighters Day, Veterans Day, and Pearl Harbor day.

Can the American flag be flown at night without a light?
A flag can be flown at night without a spotlight if there is enough ambient light in the area to recognize a flag as an American flag when seen from a reasonable distance. The distance is not defined.

When should you put out a flag?
It is proper to display an American flag 365 days per year. An extra effort should be made on Peace Officers Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial day, flag day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Patriots' Day, National POWs Day, Fallen Firefighters Day, Veterans Day, and Pearl Harbor day.

Is it illegal to burn a flag in the United States?
American flags are burned respectfully when tattered beyond repair. American flags may also be burned in protest and protected by free speech laws.

Can a governor lower the American flag?
A state governor may issue a proclamation to lower the American flag half-staff for various reasons including honoring the passing of peace officers, firefighters, state officials, other similar events.

Is it disrespectful to wash an American flag?
It is proper to wash an American flag that has become soiled. Both nylon and polyester flags can be washed in a washing machine with standard detergent use for clothing. Tide does a particularly good job at removing dirt without feeding colors.