What Happens If the American Flag Touches the Ground?

There’s no better way to show your patriotism than by flying an American flag in front of your home or business. While the stars represent each of the 50 states and the stripes represent each of 13 original colonies, the American flag is synonymous with freedom and independence. But what happens if your American flag touches the ground? To respect the flag and what it represents, you should follow a few steps if it happens to touch the ground.

Do I Have to Destroy My Flag If It Touches the Ground?

Some people assume that the American flag must be destroyed if it touches the ground, but this is just a myth. The U.S. Flag Code — government legislation that specifies rules for displaying, maintaining and retiring the American flag — doesn’t require the disposal of the American Flag if it touches the ground. Rather, the Flag Code simply says that the American Flag shouldn’t touch the ground to prevent it from becoming soiled or otherwise damaged.

Inspect American Flag for Damage

If your American flag touches the ground, first inspect it for damage. Under the Flag Code, you can continue to display an American flag after it touches the ground, assuming it’s still “suitable for display.” Depending on how long your flag has been sitting on the ground, it may or may not be suitable for display. If it’s been sitting on the ground for weeks — all while being blown around and knocked into trees and bushes — the fabric could be torn. To comply with the Flag Code, you must repair damage such as this before re-displaying your American flag.

Clean Your Flag If Necessary

If your American flag is dirty or stained after touching the ground, you should clean it before re-displaying it. The Flag Code supports washing as an “accepted practice” for cleaning the American flag. With that said, it’s recommended that you hand wash your American flag rather than placing it in the washing machine. Machine machines, even when set on the gentle cycle, are oftentimes too aggressive for flags. By hand washing your American flag, you’ll be able to safely clean it without the risk of further damaging it.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to destroy your American flag after it touches the ground. You can still display it if it’s clean and undamaged. Just remember to re-display it with a stronger and more secure mounting frame to prevent it from falling on the ground again.

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