How To Get Rid Of Worn Out American Flag

How To Get Rid Of Worn Out American Flag

Honoring the Stars and Stripes: A Guide on How to Properly Dispose of Worn American Flags


The American flag, a symbol of national unity, pride, and sacrifice, represents the values and principles that have shaped the United States of America. As such, it deserves to be treated with the utmost respect, even when it becomes worn or torn. When an American flag has reached the end of its lifespan, it is essential to dispose of it properly and in accordance with established protocols. This guide will provide comprehensive instructions on how to respectfully and appropriately get rid of a worn American flag.

Understanding the Flag Code

The Flag Code, a set of guidelines established by Congress, outlines the proper handling and display of the American flag. According to the Flag Code, a worn or tattered flag should be destroyed in a dignified manner. The code specifies that the flag should be burned, but only if it is done in a suitable and respectful setting, such as a veteran’s organization or civic group.

Methods of Disposal

There are several acceptable methods for disposing of a worn American flag. The most common and traditional method is burning. However, there are also other options available, such as:

  • Burial: The flag can be folded respectfully and buried in a place of honor, such as a veteran’s cemetery or a designated memorial site.
  • Shredding: The flag can be shredded into small pieces that are then disposed of in a respectful manner, such as by burying them or scattering them in a body of water.
  • Recycling: Some organizations, such as the American Legion, offer flag recycling programs that collect worn flags and recycle them into other products, such as commemorative items.

Burning Protocol

If you choose to burn the flag, it is crucial to follow specific guidelines to ensure a respectful and dignified process:

  1. Prepare a Suitable Environment: Conduct the burning in a safe and appropriate outdoor location away from flammable materials.
  2. Fold the Flag: Fold the flag according to the traditional triangle fold, with the blue field on the outside.
  3. Ignite Respect: Use a flame source that ignites cleanly and without creating excessive smoke.
  4. Respect the Remains: Allow the flag to burn completely and gather the ashes in a respectful manner.
  5. Dispose of Ashes: The ashes of the flag can be buried, scattered in a body of water, or placed in an appropriate memorial site.

Respectful Alternatives

If burning the flag is not feasible or desired, there are alternative methods that can be equally respectful.

  • Burial: Fold the flag carefully and bury it in a designated memorial area, such as a veteran’s cemetery or a park dedicated to honoring the flag.
  • Shredding: Shred the flag into small pieces and dispose of them in a respectful manner, such as by burying them or scattering them in flowing water.
  • Recycling: Contact local American Legion posts or other organizations that offer flag recycling programs.

Etiquette and Customs

When disposing of a worn American flag, it is important to adhere to established etiquette and customs to ensure the utmost respect is accorded to the symbol:

  • Folded with Pride: Always fold the flag according to the triangle fold before disposing of it.
  • Clean and Tidy: The flag should be cleaned and in good condition before it is burned or shredded.
  • Witness the Process: If possible, have a witness or witnesses present during the disposal process to show respect for the flag.
  • Memorialize the Moment: Take a photo or record the disposal process as a way to remember and honor the flag’s service.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • What if I can’t burn the flag myself?
    You can contact a local veteran’s organization or civic group that may have a designated burning ceremony.
  • Is there a specific time or day to burn the flag?
    No, there is no specific time or day designated for burning the flag.
  • What do I do with the ashes from burning the flag?
    The ashes can be buried, scattered in a body of water, or placed in an appropriate memorial site.
  • Is it disrespectful to throw away a flag?
    Yes, it is considered disrespectful to throw away a flag. It should be disposed of in a dignified manner.
  • Where can I find more information about flag disposal?
    The American Legion ( and the Veterans of Foreign Wars ( provide resources on flag disposal and etiquette.


Honoring the American flag is a way to demonstrate respect for the nation, its values, and the sacrifices made by those who serve under its banner. By following the protocols outlined in this guide, you can ensure that your worn flag is disposed of in a respectful and dignified manner. Remember, the American flag is more than just a piece of fabric; it represents the ideals and aspirations of a nation united in freedom and democracy.


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