Whether you’re displaying your flag for Independence Day or any day to celebrate the freedom and hope it represents, it’s always a good idea to make sure you’re handling our star-spangled banner correctly. To avoid confusion, Congress wrote and adopted the Flag Code, which dictates how the flag should be displayed, handled, and stored. See the code and tips below for honoring and caring for your American flag.
1. Never Let It Touch the Ground
As the most commonly known fact from the Flag Code, this is an important one to remember when storing your flag. This includes the time between when the flag is hanging proudly in front of your house and when it makes its way back to storage. Make sure it’s not placed in a box or container that’s on the ground; instead, keep it elevated on a shelf.
2. Fold the Flag in a Triangle
If you’ve ever been to any professional sports game, you’ll recognize the folding of the flag at the end of the national anthem. Respecting the flag at all times is paramount, which is why there’s a protocol for folding the flag when it’s done being used. Why the triangle? It’s a symbol of the tricorn hats worn by colonial soldiers in the Revolutionary War.
Start by folding the flag lengthwise in line with the stripes. Then, take a corner from the end with the red stripes, and fold it across the flag in a triangular format. Fold the next piece forward at the crease in a continual triangular pattern until there’s no more fabric. Lastly, tuck the remaining material inside the last fold to secure it.
3. Make Sure the Flag is Protected
Whether you’re storing it in a box in the attic or a beautiful display case, storing the flag is all about preservation and respect. It should never be stored in a way that allows it to be easily torn or damaged. After properly folding your flag, try placing it in a plastic storage bin to ensure it’s not exposed to moisture.
4. Store It in a Dark Place
Ensure your flag retains its beautiful red, white, and blue hues by keeping it away from sunlight when it’s not in use. If you’re storing it near a window in a clear container, the colors can fade from the sunlight exposure and heat will degrade the flag’s quality and longevity. Place it in an airtight box or container away from sunlight, like your storage unit or on an upper shelf in a closet or the basement.
5. Respectfully Retire Any Worn Flags
The American flag should be treated with respect until the very end. When it’s showing signs of wear and tear or significant fading, it should be retired from use. There are several options available instead of just tossing it in the trash. Contact your local American Legion chapter, a patriotic veterans association, about disposing of your old flags. Often, they’ll have an annual ceremony where they will burn the flags (the recommended practice according to the Flag Code).
Now that you’re in-the-know about the traditions and guidelines regarding the American flag, you can prep for Independence Day, or any other day! Proper storage when your flag is not in use will ensure you can display it proudly as a symbol of freedom for years to come.