What To Do With A Used American Flag

What To Do With A Used American Flag

What To Do With A Used American Flag

Respect and Remembrance: The Proper Disposal of a Used American Flag


The American flag is a cherished symbol of our nation’s history, values, and aspirations. As a testament to its significance, the United States Flag Code outlines specific guidelines for its respectful display and proper disposal. When a flag has served its purpose or has become worn or damaged, it is imperative to dispose of it in a dignified and reverent manner. This article provides comprehensive guidance on the appropriate steps to take with a used American flag.

The Flag Code and Proper Disposal

The United States Flag Code, codified in Title 4 of the United States Code, establishes the following provisions for the proper disposal of a used American flag:

  • Burning: The most traditional method of flag disposal is burning. The flag should be burned completely in a dignified manner, ensuring that no portion of the fabric or design touches the ground. The ashes should be buried or scattered in a respectful and appropriate location.
  • Ceremonial Flag Retirement: Many organizations, such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Boy Scouts of America, conduct formal flag retirement ceremonies. These ceremonies involve a group of individuals folding the flag precisely, burning it in a controlled environment, and disposing of the ashes in a respectful manner.
  • Burial: A used flag may also be buried in a private or public cemetery. The flag should be folded and placed in a casket or urn, and the grave should be marked appropriately.

Steps for Proper Disposal

1. Remove and Flatten: Carefully remove the flag from its staff or display. Flatten it out on a clean surface to ensure a proper fold for disposal.

2. Fold the Flag: Fold the flag in the traditional triangular shape. Begin by folding it in half lengthwise, then folding it into thirds from the bottom. Now, fold the flag in half along the original lengthwise fold, creating a triangle with the blue field displayed at the top.

3. Present for Disposal: Once the flag is folded, it should be presented to the organization or individual performing the disposal. This could be a veterans’ organization, a local library, or an authorized flag disposal service.

4. Witness the Disposal: If possible, witness the disposal of the flag to ensure it is handled with respect and dignity. If a formal ceremony is not available, consider attending a flag retirement event organized by a local civic group.

5. Respect and Reflection: Take a moment to reflect on the significance and symbolism of the American flag. Remember the values it represents and the men and women who have fought and sacrificed to protect it.

Additional Considerations

  • Do not mutilate or discard: It is disrespectful to mutilate or carelessly discard a used flag. Avoid throwing it away in the trash or treating it as ordinary waste.
  • Size and condition: The size and condition of the flag will influence the disposal method. Small flags, such as handheld flags, can be burned or buried. Larger flags, such as building-mounted flags, may require professional disposal services.
  • Alternatives: If burning or burial are not feasible, there are other options for disposing of a used flag. It can be donated to organizations that use old flags for educational purposes or historical displays. It can also be cut into smaller pieces and used for patriotic crafts or sewn into quilts.
  • Respect for veterans: Many veterans’ organizations offer flag retirement services as a way to honor their comrades-in-arms. Consider contacting a local veterans’ group for assistance in disposing of a used flag.


Q: What should I do if my flag is damaged beyond repair?
A: A damaged flag should still be disposed of with respect and dignity. The best option is to contact a veterans’ organization or authorized flag disposal service for proper handling.

Q: Can I burn a flag on my own?
A: While the Flag Code permits burning as a method of disposal, it is recommended to dispose of the flag through an organized ceremony or service. Burning the flag on your own may not be done with the proper reverence and respect.

Q: Is it disrespectful to use an old flag for other purposes?
A: Yes, it is disrespectful to repurpose a used flag for non-patriotic uses. The Flag Code prohibits the use of the flag for advertising, decoration, or other non-flag purposes.

Q: What is the best way to store a used flag until it can be disposed of?
A: Store the folded flag in a clean and dry place, such as a storage box or drawer. Ensure it is protected from moisture, insects, and direct sunlight.

Q: Is there a fee for flag disposal services?
A: The cost of flag disposal services varies depending on the organization and the method of disposal. Some veterans’ organizations offer free services, while others may charge a nominal fee.


The proper disposal of a used American flag is an act of respect and reverence for our nation’s symbol of freedom and honor. By following the guidelines outlined in the Flag Code and additional considerations, you can ensure that your used flag is disposed of in a dignified and meaningful manner. May we always honor the legacy of our flag and the values it represents.


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