How To Get Rid Of Worn Out American Flag

How To Get Rid Of Worn Out American Flag

Honoring the Retirement of the American Flag: Proper Disposal Methods

The American flag, a symbol of unity, freedom, and sacrifice, deserves to be treated with the utmost respect, even when it reaches the end of its service life. Proper disposal of worn or torn flags ensures that they are retired honorably and in accordance with established protocols.

Understanding Flag Etiquette

According to the U.S. Flag Code (4 U.S. Code §8), the American flag should be "treated with respect and reverence." This includes proper handling, display, and disposal.

When to Retire a Flag

A flag should be retired when it becomes "so worn or torn that it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of the United States" (36 C.F.R. §1022.1). Visible wear, tears, or fading are indicators that it’s time to retire a flag.

Methods of Retirement

1. Local American Legion or VFW Posts

Many American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts offer flag retirement services. They typically conduct dignified ceremonies where flags are burned in a controlled and respectful manner.

2. Local Boy Scout or Girl Scout Troops

Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops often assist with flag retirement ceremonies. They follow proper protocols and conduct the ceremonies in a respectful and educational manner.

3. Local Fire Stations

Some fire stations have facilities for burning flags safely and respectfully. Contact your local fire station to inquire about their flag retirement services.

4. Flag Disposal Boxes

Designated flag disposal boxes can be found at public buildings, libraries, and other community centers. These boxes allow you to drop off worn flags for proper disposal.

5. Mail-In Services

Organizations like the American Legion and VFW offer mail-in flag retirement services. You can mail your worn flag to a designated address, and they will handle the retirement process.

Respectful Disposal Procedures

1. Burn the Flag

Burning is the traditional and most common method of retiring a flag. However, it should only be done in a controlled environment and with proper precautions.

2. Bury the Flag

If burning is not feasible, you can bury the flag in a designated area or memorial. Fold the flag properly and place it in a biodegradable container before burial.

3. Cut the Flag into Squares

For flags that are too damaged to burn or bury, you can cut them into squares and use them as patches for quilts or other commemorative items. This repurposes the fabric while honoring the flag’s legacy.


Q: Why is it important to retire a worn flag?

A: Retiring worn flags preserves the dignity of the symbol and prevents them from becoming litter or disrespectful displays.

Q: Can I burn a flag myself?

A: It is not recommended to burn a flag at home. Controlled burning requires proper facilities and safety measures to prevent the flag from becoming part of the debris.

Q: What do I do with a flag that has been torn or damaged?

A: If a flag is torn or damaged, it should be repaired if possible. If repairs are not feasible, retire the flag using one of the methods described above.

Q: Can I donate a worn flag?

A: It is not appropriate to donate worn flags. The proper way to dispose of them is through official retirement ceremonies or designated flag disposal boxes.

Q: What happens to flags that are burned or buried?

A: Flags that are burned are disposed of in a respectful and environmentally responsible manner. Ashes from the burning are often scattered or used as fertilizer in memorial gardens. Flags that are buried are placed in biodegradable containers and interred in designated areas.


Retiring a worn American flag with respect and dignity is a patriotic act that honors the legacy of our nation’s cherished symbol. By following proper disposal methods, we show that we value the freedoms and principles that the flag represents. Remember, even in its final resting place, the American flag deserves our utmost respect and reverence.


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