How to Wash a Flag?

Launder or hand wash? We will explain how to keep a flag clean simply

Written by Olivia Paxton. Updated on How to Wash a Flag

Many Americans have a flagpole with the national flag in their yard, some people even keep this symbol of American nation at home indoors as an interior decoration.

Naturally, sooner or later the flag will get dusty and, if kept outdoors, even dirty because of rains, snow, and dust.

This is why it is necessary to wash it regularly, and that’s when most of us don’t know what to do. How to wash a flag correctly? How not to ruin the fabric?

What detergents to use to not make the colors bleed?

These and other questions start roaming around in our heads non stop!

So today we will explain how to launder the American flag and reveal several hints that will help you to keep its colors bright longer.

How to Wash a US Flag?

Generally speaking, washing an American flag is not rocket science. In most cases, it is enough to simply launder it in a washing machine since modern flags are made of rather durable materials. As a variant, you can stick to the safest way of cleaning it and do it manually or set your machine to a hand-wash regime and launder the flag in cool water using a mild washing liquid.

Cleaning & Mending the American FlagCleaning & Mending the American Flag

In order the process ends up successfully, test the flag first to check whether the fabric is colorfast.

To do that, wet a cotton swab with some plain water and rub its tip on each color present on the flag. If you see the dye remaining on the swab, then there is a high risk that the colors will bleed. In this case, the best solution will be to buy a new one and discard the current flag.

In case the colors are OK, feel free to launder the flag cloth in a washing machine. Always use the gentle cycle and cold water setting for both laundering and rinsing though!

It will allow you to avoid wrinkling (or at least to reduce it) and keep the dye from excessive bleeding. Nevertheless, sometimes you might need to make some extra efforts to clean the flag.

It is also good to keep in mind that washing an American flag can be rather tricky because of the different colors being present on the cloth at the same time.

When it comes to washing, there is always a risk that red and blue will bleed onto white and destroy the panel.

However, the mission is still possible if we are aware of what and how to do in order to make this symbol of our patriotic feelings clean again.

So how to wash an American flag if it spent too much time outdoors waving in the wind and got soiled, or you somehow accidentally stained it? There are several methods of how to wash a flag correctly depending on the fabric it is made of.

How to Wash a Flag

Type of fabric

Washing instructions

Drying method
Cotton, wool, and other natural fabrics Hand wash or dry cleaning Hang dry outdoors


Dry cleaning only

Flat dry

Synthetics (polyester, nylon, etc.) Machine wash Hang dry outdoors

Since most flags, no matter American, college flags, or common garden banners, are now made of nylon or polyester, these sturdy fabrics allow you to not bother much about cleaning them.

How to Wash a US Flag
Photo by David Kovalenko on Unsplash

However, if the flag is made of silk, cotton, or if it is a vintage item, it will require more care and attention in order to keep it in a proper state.

How to Wash a Nylon Flag?

If you want to learn how to wash a nylon american flag, we are glad to tell you that it is an extremely simple process! So if your stars and stripes are made of nylon, congratulations! Your flag is safe to wash in a washing machine.

Set your washing machine on a gentle cycle and launder the item using warm water. The detergent you are using must be mild and ensure you add it to the washing water. As an option, such a flag can also be hand washed with the washing liquid meant for delicate materials.

For drying, simply hang the flag outdoors on a breezy day, only make sure it is put away from the direct sun so that the colors will not fade!

How to Wash a Polyester Flag?

Polyester is another fabric that is quite popular when it comes to flags making. This material is sturdy and durable, but even polyester flags need to be laundered now and then.

Fortunately, washing it is very simple. You will need to set your washing machine on a warm water gentle cycle, and add some mild detergent right into the washing water. After the laundry is finished, proceed with drip drying your flag outdoors in the breeze. Only ensure it is moved away from the direct sun rays since they can make the colors fade!

The Difference Between Polyester or Nylon Flags. Which is Better for You?The Difference Between Polyester or Nylon Flags. Which is Better for You?

How to Wash a Cotton Flag?

What if your flag is made of cotton or other natural materials, such as wool? Well, in this case we would recommend you taking it to the professional dry cleaner since these fabrics are rather fragile and require more care than synthetics.

But if you feel confident enough to wash it yourself, then use only cold water for this purpose and hand wash the flag with some mild washing liquid. Rinse the item with cold water as well, and hang dry it or lay it flat to dry.

How to Wash a Silk Flag?

The biggest problems begin when you need to figure out how to wash a flag made of silk. Since this fabric is very delicate, machine wash can damage it easily. This is why we strongly recommend taking your silk flag to the professional dry cleaner whom you trust to clean your flag properly.

However, if the flag has no special meaning to you, and if you feel confident about laundering it yourself, then check the colors for bleeding and, if everything is fine, wash the item in a washing machine using a setting and a detergent meant for silk specifically.

How to Wash a Silk Flag
IgorVetushko via VistaCreate

Wool Flag Cleaning

These days, flags are mostly made of nylon, polyester, or cotton. However, historically, flags were made from natural fibers like hemp, silk, wool, and linen since back then, there were technologies for making them.

Nevertheless, if you are a lucky owner of an old flag made of wool, you might have trouble with washing it since modern washing techniques suitable for nylon/polyester can’t be used for natural delicate materials like wool. 

You might think that you can use washing methods used for woolen clothes, but we would not recommend you do that. See, wool flags are more fragile than flags made of synthetic materials. This is why they will usually require professional cleaning by a dry cleaner. 

How to Remove Stains From Your Flag?

Since most of us keep flags outdoors, they often get stained in one way or another. Naturally, dealing with stains on a multi-colored panel is not easy since you can’t just splash some whitening product, such as bleach, onto it and wait until it deletes the marks. So what shall you do?

In case you see the flag is stained (no matter with what), you will have to pre-soak it before washing.

For that, prepare a soaking solution: mix some oxygen-based bleach, for example, OxiClean, and tepid water according to the instructions on the container of the bleach.

This type of bleaching product is safe for natural and synthetic materials so you can be sure that the colors will not bleed or fade.

When the solution is ready, submerge the entire flag and let it soak for four hours at least or better leave it overnight. Then you can launder it as you would usually do. The only weak point of such a method is that it will not help you to deal with the traces of rust on the flag. For dealing with those, you will need stain-removing products and some special treatment.

Flag Care Tips
Photo by Lucas Sankey on Unsplash

Flag Care Tips

Whether you are an experienced flag cleaner or not, there are several handy tricks that will always allow you to keep the colors of stars and stripes bright and the cloth clean.

  • Always wash and rinse it in cold water
  • Use only gentle washing liquids to launder the flag
  • Never put any flag into a hot tumble dryer!
  • Dry your flag either on a clothesline or make use of a drying rack instead to drip dry the item
  • For removing wrinkles from the synthetic flag cloth, use cool iron. For unwrinkling a cotton item, hot iron will be the best though
  • To clean a vintage flag (of the one which fiber content you are not sure about), better take it to the professional dry cleaner
  • Try to remember to take the flag indoors whenever it rains or snows outside. Like that, you will help it to last longer
  • On very windy days, try not to fly your flag since strong wind can split the flag’s edges and seams which will result in fraying

With these simple suggestions, you will be able to keep your flag clean and good-looking way longer.

So now you are aware of how to clean an American flag, and what washing methods to use depending on the fabric type of the item. Also, now you know how to deal with stains of a flag so that you will not damage the fabric.

With that and the care tips we provided you with, maintaining your flag and keeping it bright-colored will never be a problem for you anymore.

What to Do If the Flag Is Damaged After Cleaning?

If you wash your flag and you see it is damaged when you take it out of the washing machine, you might be wondering what to do with it. Well, if the damage caused by washing can be fixed, try to do this delicately. E.g., if your synthetic flag shrinks, you can try to bring it back to its original shape using the methods safe for the fabric the flag is made of.

However, if you see the damage caused by washing is severe and you definitely can’t do anything to fix it (e.g., if the flag is torn or faded), then you need to dispose of it correctly.

According to the U.S. Flag Code, “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”.


So now you are aware of how to clean an American flag, and what washing methods to use depending on the fabric type of the item. Also, now you know how to deal with stains of a flag so that you will not damage the fabric.

With that and the care tips we provided you with, maintaining your flag and keeping it bright-colored will never be a problem for you anymore. And if your flag gets damaged while being washed and you see it’s impossible to restore it, you have learned what to do to dispose of it correctly.

Frequently Asked Questions

⭐How to wash a vintage flag?

The best way to cleanse it is to take the flag to the professional cleaner

⭐What is the best way to wash a flag?

The optimal way is to hand-wash it in cold water with a mild detergent and hang-dry.

⭐Can you machine wash a flag?

Yes, you can if its care tag allows that.

Written by
Olivia shares all she knows about the hotels, houses, and home cleaning with Beezzly readers. And she knows a lot! 15 years of work experience as a Manager in a former Four Season Service gave Olivia an exceptional base of professional knowledge and practical experience.
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Flag Washing and Repair (by Colonial Flag Foundation)Flag Washing and Repair (by Colonial Flag Foundation)