Most American flags are made of nylon, polyester, cotton, acetate or a combination of two or more fabrics. Because of the variations in fabrics used, hand-washing or dry cleaning create the best results. Outdoor flags likely require more frequent cleaning than indoor, which need little more than semi-regular dusting with a vacuum. Always check the tag for care instructions and only wash the flag when it's noticeably soiled.
Classic Indoor and Outdoor American Flags
Place the flag on a flat work surface; do not let it touch the ground. Cover the end of a vacuum attachment with cheesecloth and secure it in place with a rubber band. Using a patting motion, remove all dust and dirt from the flag. Flip over the flag and vacuum the opposite side.
Wet a cotton ball lightly and dab the flag at the bottom left corner. If the fabric remains colorfast, proceed; if any dye comes up on the cotton ball, dry cleaning is best.
Inspect the flag carefully for any noticeable stains. Pretreat the stains with a gentle laundry product or make your own. Add a small amount of laundry detergent intended for delicate fabrics to a dish and add an equal amount of water -- just enough to thin it. Dip a clean, lint-free cloth in the solution and gently dab it on the soiled areas.
Fill a clean, disinfected large basin or bucket with cold water. For an outdoor flag, a bathtub offers the most room.
Add 1/4 cup of mild laundry detergent intended for delicate fabrics. Agitate the water with your hand to mix the solution.
Scrub the flag in the water gently by hand. Outdoor flags may require you soak the fabric for 10 minutes before scrubbing. Once the flag is clean, thoroughly rinse it with cold water. Do not wring it out by hand.
Arrange fluffy, clean towels on a table. Place the wet flag flat on the towels and roll the towel and the flag up as one to remove excess moisture. Dry the table and place the flag flat to dry before rehanging.
Decorative American Flags With Fringe or Tassels
Take antique American flags or those with decorative fringe and tassels to a dry cleaner if vacuuming with a cheesecloth-covered attachment isn't enough.
Spritz stains with an at-home dry cleaning spray provided in a dry-cleaning kit. Place the flag in the provided bag with the pretreated dry-cleaning-solution cloth and zip the bag closed.
Set your dryer to the lowest setting and tumble-dry the flag inside the bag for 30 minutes or the time recommended by the dry-cleaning kit directions. Remove the flag immediately and lay it flat on a table to dry.