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Flag Protocol Index:

Cleaning The Flag

Mending Flags

Storing Flags

Respect For The U.S.A Flag

Position And Manner Of Display

How To Fold The Flag

The U.S. Flag In Times Of Mourning

Display The Flag On A Car

The U.S. Flag Above A Street

In The Lobby Or A Building

Flag Lighting

Spacing Lights

Red, White, And Blue

How Long Will A Flag Last?


From the chaos of a heated battlefield to the daily flag ceremonies of a scout troop camping high in the mountains, flags have proved to be strong and resilient in all kinds of situations, but not indestructible. Preventing damage to your flag is not always possible, but by following some simple care-taking tips, you can extend the life of your flag.


Dust, smoke, and other harmful pollutants can cause your flag to wear and age quickly. If possible, choose to fly your flag in a clean environment. When your flag becomes dirty, wash it in warm water with a mild detergent, making sure to rinse it thoroughly-leaving no residue behind that can cause discoloration. Do not store your flag until it is completely dry.


Trimming off frayed threads is an easy way to make your flag last longer and look better. If excessive fraying occurs, using a sewing machine to re-hem a flag is a perfectly acceptable way of maintaining your flag. Flags with excessive wear and tear should be properly disposed of.


Storing your flag properly is not only respectful, but can add life to your flag. It is important that you store your flag in a dry and dust-free environment. Also, avoid storing your flag in a garage or a basement next to chemicals that could damage your flag. Storing your flag in a proper case will protect your flag and also give you an attractive way to display it.

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Respecting the flag is very important. The American flag is a symbol of our nation's strength and unity.

For over 200 years it has been an inspiration for millions of citizens and the flag deserves our respect. The flag has been a prominent icon in our national history. Many people have died to preserve our nation’s freedom and way of life. Please be careful when handling the American flag.

Many rules and regulations can come in to play when displaying the flag. We hope that some of these guidelines will help maintain the reverent respect and admiration for our country’s national symbol.
No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.

(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

(b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.

(c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.

(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.

(e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.

(f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.

(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.

(h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.

(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

(k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.


EAP is dedicated to helping you display your flag properly. The flag deserves high esteem and regard because it represents a nation that has overcome a host of trials. It represents a nation standing united under God. Giving proper respect to the flag goes beyond the Pledge of Allegiance and flying it on the Fourth of July. Although this list is not all-inclusive, the following tips are good guidelines to properly displaying an American flag:

Do's. Proper care should always be given to the flag. Displaying it in a dignified and appropriate manner should always be considered before installing a flag pole, hanging it on the side of your home, or presenting it at a meeting or at other public places.

Don'ts. Avoid flying the flag outdoors during periods of severe weather. Damage to the flag should be avoided and proper cleaning of the flag should take place soon after it becomes dirty. The flag should always be folded properly and stored in a safe place when not on display. Flags should never be fastened to, displayed on, or draped over anything that would allow it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged. Bunting should be considered for use in situations where harm may occur.

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This custom of special folding is reserved for the United States Flag alone.

Step 1
To properly fold the Flag, begin by holding it waist-high with another person so that its surface is parallel to the ground.

Step 2
Fold the lower half of the stripe section lengthwise over the field of stars, holding the bottom and top edges securely.

Step 3
Fold the flag again lengthwise with the blue field on the outside.

Step 4
Make a triangular fold by bringing the striped corner of the folded edge to meet the open (top) edge of the flag.

Step 5
Turn the outer (end) point inward, parallel to the open edge, to form a second triangle.

Step 6
The triangular folding is continued until the entire length of the flag is folded in this manner. The loose end of the flag should be tucked in under the exposed layer of the flag.

Step 7
When the flag is completely folded, only a triangular blue field of stars should be visible.

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The United States flag is flown at half-mast to express sadness for the death of an important person or people or when mourning a national tragedy. Only the President and state governors can decide when and how long the flag should be flown at half-staff. The length of time for flying the flag at half-staff depends on the office of the person held:

  • Thirty days after the death of a President or former President.
  • Ten days after the death of the Vice President, the Chief Justice or a retired Chief Justice, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
  • Until the burial of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, secretary of a military department, a former Vice President, or governor of a state, territory, or possession.
  • On the day of and the day after the death of a member of Congress.
  • On Memorial Day, the day set aside to honor all the people who have died while serving the United States. Originally called Armistice Day for the day the treaty that ended World War I was signed, the flag is flown at half-mast until noon, and then raised to full staff until sundown.
  • The US Congress designated 11 September as "Patriot Day." This has been made Section 144 of Title 36, United States Code. In commemoration of Patriot Day, Public Law 107-89 calls on the President to issue a proclamation each year.

When raising the flag to half-staff, always raise it briskly to the top of the flagpole for a moment before lowering it. When taking it down for the night, raise it to the top of the flagpole again and lower it to the bottom.  

If the flag is an indoor flag or mounted on the side of a house where it cannot be lowered to half-staff, it is appropriate to tie a black ribbon above the flag, just below the ornament. The black ribbon should be no more than 10% the width of the flag and approximately twice its length.

Many have asked if the above guidelines apply to the private sector or residential flag flyers. While the flag code and presidential proclamation are intended for all federal buildings, US Embassies and U.S. Military facilities worldwide, the spirit of such proclamations reflect a standard of protocol that is typically adhered to by the general public. There is no law that would prohibit a state, city, town, private sector or residential flag flyer from flying their flag at full staff. However, as a matter of tradition and good etiquette, non-federal U.S. flag flyers have typically followed the Federal government's lead.

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The flag should hang vertically above a street
with the canton facing to the north above an east-west street.
Above a north-south street, hang so the canton is facing to the east.

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If the flag is hung inside a building lobby, it should hang vertically so that the canton is on the left side as seen from the entrance.

When there is more than one entrance, the canton should be hung vertically near the center of the lobby, with the canton on the north side when the entrances are on the east or west sides, or facing east when entrances are on the north or south sides. When there are entrances from more than two directions, the canton should hang facing east.

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On a car, attach a flag to the right fender or chassis. Although not officially recognized, many people attach a small flag to the antenna. The flag should always be on the right side of your car. Window flags should be on the right side of the car. If you have two flags, hang them on each side of the car with the canton toward the front of the car.

You can also place a flag sticker in any window as long as the canton is toward the front of the car. This is so that the flag is never in retreat. Don't lay the flag over the hood or roof of your car or any vehicle, such as a boat.

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The U.S. flag must be illuminated at nighttime. Other flags and banners may be illuminated for marketing purposes. Visibility is dependent on the position of the viewer and the flag as well as ambient light levels, and contrast ratios with respect to other objects in the field of view. Although many variables are involved, the following rules of thumb should result in a satisfactory installation.

1. Always use multiple fixtures. This will ensure that the flag is illuminated regardless of wind direction.

2. Fixtures should be setback from the pole one-third to one-half the length of the flag.

3. Three fixtures placed in a triangular configuration around a single pole produce the best overall effect.

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Ideally, three lights are recommended to light a flag.

The lights should be placed approximately 120 degrees apart from each other. The recommended aiming point for each light is the center of the flag at the top of the flagpole. Locate luminaries in direct line between the viewer and the flag to reduce or eliminate glare. Use multiple fixtures to eliminate shadows.

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The colors red, white, and blue did not have meanings for The Stars and Stripes when it was adopted in 1777.

However, the colors in the Great Seal did have specific meanings. Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, reporting to Congress on the Seal, stated:

"The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valor, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice."

Also this from a book about the flag published in 1977 by the House of Representatives...

"The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun."

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How long will a flag last? There is no exact answer.

The U.S. Government generally expects a nylon or cotton bunting flag to last approximately 90 days, based on daily usage from sunrise to sunset. Tests have shown that in some cases a flag flown 24 hours a day will last only 1/4 as long as one flown during day light hours only.

Sadly enough flags don't last forever, after awhile the cloth will sooner or later succumb to the elements it is exposed too. It has been documented that reasonably good care and love for the flag can greatly prolong the life of your flag.

Things that will help prolong life of a flag:

• Try to avoid flying your flag in the rain or snow.

• High winds combined with water puts undue strain on the flag.

• You can prevent mildew by letting your flag dry thoroughly before storing it.

• The fly end will be the first to reveal wear and tear. When this begins, you may take the flag down trim off the old hem and re-hem your flag. Do this at the first sign of fraying to prevent the material from shredding.

• Beware of obstacles from other nearby surfaces. (Such a trees or phone lines) This will cause a weakening of the materials.

• Use the proper size of flag on your flagpole. A flag that is too large may cause the pole and flag undue stress in high winds.

• Smog and atmosphere conditions will not only cause discoloration, but weaken the fabric of your flag.

• Continuous day and night display will shorten the life of your flag.

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