How to Clean a Flag


Jan asked: How do I clean a vintage flag? My large, vintage flag, which has 49 machine-stitched stars, has some brownish stains on it. Should I attempt to clean it or just leave it alone?

Caring for a flag is important to keep it looking sharp and proud on display. While washing it is necessary, tossing it in the washing machine can damage it. Here are some proper ways to care for a flag.

You Will Need:

  • Cheese cloth or old nylons
  • Vacuum with upholstery attachment
  • Mild detergent
  • Water
  • Drying rack
  • Towels
  • Stain treatment (optional)

Steps to Clean a Flag:

  1. If the flag has been displayed indoors and just requires a good dusting, a quick vacuuming will usually do the trick.
  2. Cover the upholstery attachment with either cheese cloth or an old nylon.
  3. Use the vacuum and carefully brush or pat the dirt and dust away.
  4. If there are soiled areas or stains, it is best to hand wash the flag.
  5. Fill a sink with warm water.
  6. Add a small amount of mild detergent and agitate slightly to mix.
  7. Next, place the flag into the water and carefully push the water through it.
  8. If the flag is older, do not agitate or scrub vigorously as this can damage the fabric.
  9. Remove the flag and gently press the excess soap and water out. Do not wring the fabric as this can cause stretching and will result in an oddly shaped flag.
  10. Rinse the flag with clean water.
  11. Repeat until all of the soap is removed.
  12. Lay the flag on a towel and roll it up.
  13. Gently press on the towel to remove any excess water. Do not wring it out.
  14. Unroll and lay the flag on a drying rack or iron to dry.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • Prior to washing any flag, test it for colorfastness. Test a small area and ensure that the colors do not bleed or fade.
  • If the flag is older than 40 years, it should not be cleaned without consulting a professional first. They will be able to evaluate the condition of the fabric and suggest appropriate and safe cleaning methods.
  • Dry cleaning flags is ideal and often yields the best results. There are many cleaners that will clean them for no charge, especially around patriotic holidays.

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