As a U.S. flag is exposed to the elements, it will inevitably wear out and eventually become unsuitable for use.
Don't just throw an old flag in the trash, though. There are guidelines for properly disposing of a flag so it gets a proper send-off.
Since a lot of people fly the flag on Presidents Day, here are some tips for how to dispose of a flag, as well as some common misconceptions about displaying and using the flag.
"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," according to the official U.S. Flag Code.
To begin the proper disposal procedure for a flag, start by folding it in the customary manner.
Fold the flag in half lengthwise, then fold it again toward the open edge. Begin folding the flag into triangles, with the first fold toward the open edge. The stars should be on the outside when finished folding, and only the blue field should be visible.
After you've finished folding, you can place the flag on a fire. The fire should be large enough to consume the entire flag, according to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
People observing the flag disposal can then come to attention and salute the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance or have a moment of silence.
After the flag has completely burned, put out the fire safely and bury the ashes. Make sure to be aware of any fire codes or ordinances you may need to follow in your area.
Some organizations may offer to recycle an unserviceable flag. Veterans of Foreign Wars chapters offer flag recycling.
Various American Legion chapters may also either recycle flags or offer to collect them for proper disposal at a later date.
One common misconception is that a flag should be destroyed once it touches the ground, according to the American Legion.
The official U.S. Flag Code specifies that the flag shouldn't touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, a floor or a water surface. However, the code does not require a flag to be destroyed or burned if it has touched the ground.
The U.S. Flag Code does not include any penalties for violations of the code. Instead, the code acts as a guideline for flag etiquette.
A flag that has been used to cover a casket can be used for any other flag display purpose. It does not need to be retired because it has been used over a casket.
You also might think flying a flag with any less than 50 stars is inappropriate, but the flag never becomes obsolete, according to the American Legion. That means any previous historical version of the flag that has been officially approved is appropriate for use until it's no longer serviceable.
The president of the U.S. and the governor of a state are the only two officials who may order a flag to be flown at half-staff. It's done in mourning of either a prominent national or state figure, so the president and governor have the authority to order it.
The flag code doesn't approve or disallow "fringing" of the flag, commonly seen as gold trim around the edge of a flag. The Legion considers it a worthwhile addition to the design of the flag.