Machine Wash American Flag

Machine Wash American Flag

Machine Wash American Flag

Machine Washing the American Flag: A Guide to Preserve the Symbol of Patriotism

The American flag is a cherished symbol of national pride and unity, representing the ideals of liberty and justice for all. As a display of patriotism, it is often flown on homes, businesses, and government buildings. However, maintaining the integrity and dignity of the flag requires proper care and handling, including appropriate washing techniques.

Is it Acceptable to Machine Wash the American Flag?

According to the United States Flag Code, the federal law governing the display and use of the flag, there are no specific regulations prohibiting machine washing. However, it is generally recommended to hand wash the flag whenever possible.

If machine washing is unavoidable, it should be done with the utmost care and respect.

Step-by-Step Guide to Machine Washing the American Flag


  • Washing machine with gentle cycle
  • Mild detergent
  • Cold water
  • Large mesh laundry bag or pillowcase


  1. Lay the Flag Flat: Before placing the flag in the washing machine, lay it flat on a clean surface to remove any excess dirt or debris. Do not fold or crease it.

  2. Place the Flag in a Laundry Bag: To protect the flag from snags or tears during the wash cycle, place it inside a large mesh laundry bag or a pillowcase secured with a drawstring.

  3. Select Gentle Cycle and Cold Water: Use the gentlest cycle available on your washing machine. Set the water temperature to cold to avoid fading or discoloration.

  4. Use Mild Detergent: Choose a mild, non-abrasive detergent without bleach or fabric softener. These chemicals can damage the flag’s fabric and colors.

  5. Avoid Wringing or Twisting: After the wash cycle, do not wring or twist the flag. Gently lift it out of the laundry bag or pillowcase and shake it lightly to remove excess water.

Hand Washing the Flag

If you prefer a more delicate approach, hand washing the flag is the preferred method.


  1. Fill a Basin with Cold Water: Fill a sink or tub with cold water and add a small amount of mild detergent.

  2. Submerge the Flag: Gently submerge the flag in the water and let it soak for a few minutes.

  3. Agitate Gently: Gently agitate the water around the flag, taking care not to rub or scrub it.

  4. Rinse Thoroughly: Rinse the flag thoroughly with cold water until all detergent residue is removed.

Drying the Flag

  1. Lay the Flag Flat: Place the flag flat on a clean towel or drying rack. Do not use a dryer to avoid shrinking or damage.

  2. Air Dry: Allow the flag to air dry naturally. Do not expose it to direct sunlight, which can cause fading.

  3. Ironing: If necessary, you can iron the flag on a low heat setting with a clean, undampened cloth placed between the flag and the iron.

Additional Tips

  • Wash the flag as infrequently as possible.
  • Do not use bleach or chlorine-based detergents.
  • Repair any tears or holes promptly to prevent further damage.
  • Display the flag on a flagpole or in a suitable frame to protect it from the elements.
  • Retire the flag respectfully when it becomes faded or worn.


Q: Can I use a washing machine to clean all types of flags?
A: No. Machine washing is generally not recommended for antique or historical flags or flags made from delicate materials such as silk. Hand washing or professional cleaning is advised in these cases.

Q: What should I do if my flag has stains?
A: For small stains, try dabbing gently with a damp cloth and mild detergent. For larger or more persistent stains, consult a professional flag cleaner.

Q: Is it disrespectful to wash the American flag?
A: No. While hand washing is the preferred method, machine washing is acceptable if done with care and respect. It is more disrespectful to display a dirty or faded flag.

Q: Can I dry the flag in a dryer?
A: No. Never put the American flag in a dryer, as this can cause shrinking and damage to the fabric.

Q: How often should I wash the American flag?
A: Wash the flag only when necessary. Excessive washing can weaken the fabric and fade the colors.


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