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U.S. Flag Etiquette: Are You Handling Your Flag Properly?

May 22, 2017

U.S. Flag Etiquette: Are You Handling Your Flag Properly?

Proper flag etiquette is important, but do you know what’s actually expected from you when caring for and handling your flag? While you may think you’re being dutifully patriotic, could some of your actions actually be deemed disrespectful?

We’ve sifted through the codes, rules, and regulations and have broken them down to give you a better understanding of the right and wrong ways to handle your flag.

Spruce up your flag etiquette by understanding what you should and should NOT do Here’s our list of dos and don’ts.

DO: Display your flag with the blue union field facing upward.

The “blue union field” is the proper term for the blue rectangle located on the flag that holds the fifty white stars representing each of the fifty states. Depending on where and how it’s displayed, your flag may hang horizontally or vertically. In each case, the blue union field should always be located on the upper left corner (when horizontal) and the upper right (when vertical).

DON’T: Fly the flag upside down

The flag should never be flown upside down. In fact, the rule above is meant keep you from doing so. The only time this action would be appropriate is to signal distress.

DO: Handle delicately

The American flag is a sacred symbol and should be treated as so. You should always hold your flag carefully, making sure it never touches anything beneath it (the ground, the floor, water, and other objects).

DON’T: Display a soiled flag

If your flag becomes torn, discolored, burned, or substantially worn, it is no longer suitable for display. This is why you don’t want to skimp on quality. Flags that are crafted using durable materials tend to last longer than those don’t, especially if you’re displaying outdoors.

If your flag becomes soiled, you’ll want to dispose of it properly by burning it.   

First, fold your flag in its customary manner and cautiously submerge it in the flames until it burns completely. While it burns, it is appropriate to salute the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or pause for a moment of silent reflection.

To keep your flag from becoming soiled, try investing in one that is made using high-quality nylon or polyester materials. These flags tend to be more durable and handle weather conditions much better than ones made using cheap fabrics.

DO: Understand when to fly at half-staff

It’s a little confusing to determine when or why the flag should be flown at half-staff (or “half mast”). In most countries, a flag flown at half-staff is typically a display of mourning, respect, or distress. In the United States, A president may give the executive order to display all flags at half mast to commemorate the death of principal figure (or figures) of the United States government and others to honor their passing and memory.

While most mistakes are made out of good intention, it’s important to know exactly when it’s appropriate to display your flag halfway below the summit of your flagpole. Check out this nifty resource that will notify you when your flag should be flown half-staff.

DON’T: Forget to illuminate your flag at night

Your flag should never fly in the dark. If you choose not to remove your flag from its pole prior to sunset, you must illuminate during the night. Position a spotlight beneath and angle it so that its light is being directed at your flag.


The American flag is a sacred national symbol, so it’s important to know the ins and outs on how to handle it properly. How knowledgeable are you of proper flag etiquette? What do you wish you knew more about?

Check out our collection of American made flags here.




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