Flag Etiquette & FAQ

Download CRS Reports for Congress

The United States Flag: Federal Law Relating to Display and Associated Questions

This report presents, verbatim, the United States Flag Code as found in Title 4 of the United States Code and the section of Title 36 which designates the Star- Spangled Banner as the national anthem and provides instructions on how to display the flag during its rendition. The Flag Code includes instruction and rules on such topics as the pledge of allegiance, display and use of the flag by civilians, time and occasions for display, position and manner of display, and how to show respect for the flag. The Code also grants to the President the authority to modify the rules governing the flag.


Frequently Asked Questions About Flags

Q. How can I prolong the life of my flag? A. Rotate your flags. At the first sign of wear, take down your flag and replace it with a new or repaired flag.
Q. How do I fly other flags on the same pole as my U.S. Flag? A. As long as your pole is large enough to support the weight of the flags, the U.S. Flag must be flown above and be the same size or larger than the other flags. Note that flags of other countries are not to be flown beneath the U.S. Flag. They should be the same size and flown on separate poles at the same height.
Q. If I were to hang the U.S. Flag vertical against a building or from the ceiling in a gym, which way should the union face? A. The union (field of stars) should always be on the left side as it is commonly viewed.
Q. How long is a flag supposed to last and is there a guarantee? A. Flown 24/7, the average use of a nylon flag is 2-3 per year, the average use of polyester is 1=2 per year. There are many factors that affect the life of a flag such as weather, ultraviolet exposure and pollution. Therefore, there is no guarantee for wear.
Q. May I wash my flag? A. We recommend that you wash your flags on a gentle cycle with mild detergent. It can be dried in a dryer on low heat. Some dry cleaners will clean U.S. Flags at no charge.
Q. How do I display my U.S. Flag with flags of other countries? A. U.S. and International flags should always be the same size and flown on separate poles at the same height. The U.S. Flag should appear on the left as it is most commonly viewed.
Q. What do I do with a flag that is worn and can't be flown any longer? A. Most local veterans organizations will gladly take and dispose of your flag.
Q. What is the flag order of importance so I know how they should be flown? A. The positions of honor are first the U.S., then International, state, county, city, military, organizational and personal.
Q. I have three flagpoles in a straight line. In what order should I display my flags? A. If your flagpoles are in a straight line, the U.S. Flag should be on the left as it is most commonly viewed. The next position of honor should go to the right of the U.S. Flag and the lowest position of honor goes on the pole farthest to the right.
Q. I have three flagpoles in a triangle. The middle flagpole is closest to the street and is taller than the others. In what order do I display my flags? A. As the display is most commonly viewed, the U.S. Flag should be in the center and on the tallest pole. The second position of honor is to the left and the third position of honor is to the right.