Although considered poor etiquette and disrespectful to the thousands of men and women who’ve sacrificed so much for our nation’s freedom, it is not illegal to throw away the American Flag. The Flag Codes states that it should be destroyed with “with dignity, preferably by burning.” This is best done by taking your old flag to an American Legion or VFW post close to you, where veterans and members may then hold a ceremony as they properly retire/dispose of it.
You Cannot Wash the American Flag
Another all-too-myth is that you cannot wash the American flag. I’m not sure who started this rumor, but it’s just that: a rumor that needs to go away. If your American flag is dirty, you can most certainly clean it. Assuming it’s just minor dirt, try cleaning it with a damp washcloth and small amount of laundry detergent. This should do the trick for light stains and topical dirt. For heavier stains, you may need to get your flag dry cleaned.
You Cannot Display an American Flag with Fewer than 50 Stars
The 50 stars displayed on the American flag represent our nation’s 50 states, leading some people to believe that you cannot fly an American flag that has fewer than 50 stars. The U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry states, however, that the American flag is never obsolete, meaning any officially approved flag can be flown with honor, regardless of the number of stars or stripes that it contains.
City Mayors Determine When to Fly the American Flag at Half-Staff
It’s a common assumption that only city mayors have the authority to determine when it’s acceptable to fly the American flag at half staff. According to the American Legion’s official website, however, this decision is made only be the President of the United States or the state Governor, as per section 7(m) of the Flag Code. When another person or entity makes the decision to fly the American flag at half staff, it erodes “the honor and reverence” of this act.
You Must Retire an American Flag if it Touches the Ground
Last but not least, some people believe that you must retire an American flag if it touches the ground. In reality, though, you may continue to proudly fly and display the flag, as long as it’s clean and presentable. It’s best to avoid allowing your flag to touch the ground, but there’s no need to retire it if it happens to brush against the ground.