When storing a flag or any large textile, the safest method is to avoid folding it and creating creases in the fabric that add stress and can damage those fibers. Storing the flag rolled on an archival-quality storage tube condenses the size of the item for more convenient storage without folding or creasing it.
If you have a memorial or burial flag that was specially folded by a member of the armed services, you'll want to preserve that as it was presented to you. We have a range of products for safely storing or displaying folded flags while protecting them from damage.
As with any guide – these are just suggestions. If you believe you have artifacts or objects of historical value or works of art – consult a conservator before you do anything. You can locate a conservator near you by using the AIC’s Find a Conservator tool.
Supplies for Storing Your Flag
To preserve your flag you'll want to make sure anything that comes into contact with the flag is archival-quality. This means the materials are acid- and lignin-free, as well as pH neutral. We also recommend using unbuffered tissue for wrapping and interleaving your flag, as the fabric, thread or dyes may contain animal protein.
You'll need the following materials to safely preserve your flag:
- An archival storage tube that is 6" longer than the widest vertical edge of the flag; a 3" diameter tube will accommodate most flags
- Acid- and lignin-free unbuffered tissue paper - large 30 x 40" sheets will work best
- Unbleached cotton tying tape that is 1/2"W by at least 3 feet
- Cotton gloves
- Roll storage box long enough to accommodate the storage tube
- Label for outside of box
If your flag is visibly dirty or soiled, depending on the condition of the flag, you may want to consider cleaning the flag prior to storing it. You'll want to choose a gentle cleaning method that won’t leave behind any residue that could cause yellowing or other discoloration. We recommend using an extra gentle cleanser, such as Orvus WA Paste, specifically made for cleaning delicate textiles of historic value. Gently handwash the flag, thoroughly rinse it and lay it flat to dry. If you prefer to let someone else do the cleaning, you can use a reputable dry cleaner. If you have a very delicate or historically important flag, we recommend you contact a conservator in your area for guidance.
How to Roll Your Flag
- Wash and dry your hands thoroughly before handling the flag
- Lay the flag out on a clean, suitably sized surface
- Using a sheet of tissue paper, create a header on the tube by wrapping it about 1 1/2 times around the tube. You'll want to width of the tissue to be wider than the flag but not wider than the tube itself.
- Center the fly end of the flag (the part that flies in the air) on the tissue paper that is extending from the tube.
- Place another sheet of tissue on top of the flag to interleave the flag. You want to prevent the fabric from coming into contact with itself while you're rolling.
- Gently roll the flag with very light tension, smoothing out any creases or folds as you roll.
- When you reach the hoist end (the end that attaches to the flag pole), use another sheet of tissue paper to wrap around the tube so that none of the fabric is showing. This also provides some padding.
- Use cotton tying tape to secure the flag to prevent it from unrolling. Tie at both ends above and below where the flag ends.
- You'll also want to add a tie every 18-24". These ties should not be tight. Once tied, you should still be able to easily slip a finger or two between the roll and the tie.
- Place the rolled flag inside of a roll storage box.
- Label the outside of the box for easy identification.
Where to Store Your Flag
It's best to store any item you want to preserve in a place that is dry and cool and where the temperature and humidity don't fluctuate much. You'll want to avoid areas such as unfinished basements, attics or garages. It's ideal to store the box flat on the ground, not upright, to minimize stress on the fabric.