How to Properly Display the American Flag

In 1923, the U.S. National Flag Code was created and distributed nationwide. The code became Public Law in 1942 and became the U.S. Flag Code we know today. The U.S. Flag Code lays out the ways to display and respect the flag of the United States.

  • The flag should not be on display outdoors during bad weather.
  • The flag should not be used for advertising purposes, or embroidered on cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins or boxes.
  • The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery.
  • It should never be displayed upside down unless trying to convey a sign of distress or great danger.
  • The flag should never touch anything beneath it; this includes water, merchandise and even the floor.
  • When displaying the U.S. flag with other flags, the U.S. flag comes first and is centered in the middle of a flag display. In addition, the U.S. flag must be placed higher than the other flags, unless other national flags are present. In that case the U.S. flag would be the same height.

When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right, that is, to the observer's left. When displayed in a window, the flag should be displayed in the same way, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street.

Traditional guidelines call for displaying the flag in public only from sunrise to sunset. However, the flag may be displayed at all times if it’s illuminated during darkness. The flag should not be subject to weather damage, so it should not be displayed during rain, snow and wind storms unless it is an all-weather flag.

The flag may be flown at half-staff to honor a newly deceased federal or state government official by order of the president or the governor, respectively. On Memorial Day, the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon.

During the hoisting or lowering of the flag or when it passes in parade or review, Americans should stand at attention facing the flag and place their right hand over the heart. Uniformed military members render the military salute. Men not in uniform should remove any headdress and hold it with their right hand at their left shoulder, the hand resting over the heart. Those who are not U.S. citizens should stand at attention.

When the flag is worn out or otherwise no longer a fitting emblem for display, it should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

Quick list of Flag Etiquette Don'ts:

  • Don't dip the U.S. Flag for any person, flag, or vessel.
  • Don't let the flag touch the ground.
  • Don't fly flag upside down unless there is an emergency.
  • Don't carry the flag flat, or carry things in it.
  • Don't use the flag as clothing.
  • Don't store the flag where it can get dirty.