How to Get Rid of an Old Flag When it Is Worn

By Thomas Craughwell
Rid, an Old Flag, it

Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

A flag that is torn, tattered, faded or dirty should be removed and disposed of properly. According the U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, also known as the Flag Code, “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” That regulation applies to flags made of cotton or wool; flags made of nylon or some other synthetic fiber require a different manner of disposal.

Proper Method of Disposal

Contact your local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and ask the proper way to dispose of your flag. Some organizations such as the VFW, the American Legion or the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts collect worn-out flags and burn them in a dignified public ceremony. Alternatively, the organization collecting the flags may simply burn them in an incinerator.

Build a fire in a fire pit dug in your yard or in a charcoal grill large enough to hold the flag. The flag should be folded in the customary manner into a triangle. Wait until the wood or charcoal is reduced to a pile of red coals, then place the folded flag on the coals. Stand at attention and remain beside the pit or grill until the flag has been completely consumed. Extinguish the fire; once the ashes are cool, bury them. This method applies only to flags made of a natural fiber such as cotton or wool.

Dig a hole in a remote corner of your yard. The hole should be about foot or more deep, so there is no chance that through erosion or some other acts of nature the buried flag might become unearthed and exposed. Fold the flag in the usual triangle shape, lay it in the bottom of the hole, then bury it. This method is proper for flags made of synthetic material.

About the Author

Thomas Craughwell is the author of more than 15 books, including "Stealing Lincoln's Body" (Harvard University Press, 2007) and "Saints Behaving Badly" (Doubleday, 2006). He has written articles for "The Wall Street Journal," "U.S. News & World Report" and "The American Spectator." He has been a guest on CNN and the BBC. Craughwell has an M.A. from New York University.