The Flag Code
Retiring the United States Flag from Service
The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing.
The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except
as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life
The flag should not be used as a drapery or for covering a
speaker's desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in
general, including statues and monuments. Bunting of blue, white and
red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the
bunting should be on top.
The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It
should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such
articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything
intended to be discarded after temporary use. Never use it as part
of a costume or athletic uniform.
However, it is proper to attach a flag patch to the uniform of
military personnel, fire fighters, police officers and members of
other patriotic organizations -- provided the patch is properly
Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or
halyard. The flag should never have placed on it, or attached to it,
any mark, insignia, letter, work, number, figure, or drawing of any
kind. The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving,
holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground
or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and
arms. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and
The flag should never be soiled. It is to be cleaned and mended
when necessary. The flag may be laundered or dry-cleaned.
When a flag is so worn (tattered, ripped, faded) it is no longer
fit to serve as the symbol of our country, it should be destroyed in
a dignified manner, preferably by burning. See: Flag Retirement
'The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a
fitting emblem of display, should be destroyed in a dignified way,
preferably by burning." (The United States Flag Code) The flag
should be burned at a private, non-public location. Conditions of
deterioration include fading, shredding, ripping, dirt and grime
that cannot be cleaned, and torn or damaged halyards and grommets
that cannot be repaired.
In many American communities, one or more organizations render an
important community service by collecting and overseeing the proper
disposal of flags. For information in your community, try the Boy
Scouts of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, or the American Legion.
If they provide a flag retirement service, the flag can be dropped
off and they will perform the ceremony for several flags at the same
A flag retirement ceremony may also be a family activity. It
provides an opportunity to teach and instruct. If retiring the flag
as a family, the following steps might be considered:
1. Gather the family around. Raise the flag on the pole or staff or
hold it aloft by hand.
2. Call the group to attention. Salute and recite the Pledge of
Allegiance to the flag.
3. The leader might say something like, "This flag has served its
nation well and long. It is now worn to a condition in which it
should no longer be used to represent the nation. We pay honor to
this flag for the service it has rendered.
4. Fold the flag according to procedures explained on this site.
Folding the Flag
5. Give the flag to the group leader who will burn it until it is
Folding the Flag
To properly fold the U.S. Flag, follow these steps:
1. Two people face each other, each holding one end of the flag.
Stretch it horizontally at waist height and fold in half lengthwise,
with the blue field facing down.
2. Again, fold the flag in half lengthwise. The union (stars) should
now be on both sides of the fold.
3. One person holds the flag by the union while the other starts at
the opposite end by making a triangular fold.
4. Continue to fold the flag in triangles from the stripes end until
only the blue field with stars is showing.
5. If the hoist is showing and overlapping the blue field it may be
tucked in under the outer layer of the blue field. The hoist is the
edge of the flag attached to the halyard (rope).
How the Flag is NOT to be Used
The United States Flag Code, first adopted in 1923 and later
amended, prescribes flag etiquette for a variety of situations
ensuring our national symbol a position of honor and respect. The
Flag Code is not law, but a guide for civilians who wish to properly
honor the United States of AmericaÕs principal emblem.
Each military branch has its own flag code; therefore, on matters
concerning military flag etiquette, National Flag Foundation
recommends that you consult the specific branchÕs code.
The Flag Code, which formalizes and unifies the traditional ways in
which we give respect to the flag, also contains specific
instructions on how the flag is not to be used.