Choosing the Proper Flag Material

An image of threads, and other materials used to sew and create outdoor flags.

There are many factors that weigh on your mind before purchasing a flag, but flag material is not usually one of them. Believe it or not, flag material is just as important as what is displayed on the flag. You shouldn’t go outdoors in the summer with a heavy jacket, and you shouldn’t wear shorts during the winter, so you shouldn’t purchase the wrong flag for the wrong purpose.

Collins Flags offers a wide variety of flag materials for various purposes. We offer expertly crafted nylon, polyester and cotton flags. As with anything, there are pros and cons to each flag material. Before you make your purchase decision, ask yourself, “Where will I be displaying this flag?”

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Nylon Flag Pros:

Nylon is the most popular flag material, and it is also the most versatile. Nylon flags are usually shiny, thin, and provide bright colors for an attractive appearance. Our nylon flags are also specially treated to resist sun and they are fast drying. Because nylon is a lightweight material, these flags are able to fly in the slightest of a breeze. The nylon flag is very suitable for outdoor and indoor display. Nylon is a generally more budget friendly than other flag materials.

Nylon Flag Cons:

Nylon is a lightweight material that does not last as long as other flag materials. Nylon flags are intended to be flown in light to medium winds, so you need to be mindful of the environment you live in. Although nylon is the most versatile flag material, it is not the most durable.  Collins Flags recommends polyester if you are flying your flag in more extreme weather conditions.

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Polyester Flag Pros:

Polyester is the most durable flag material that is best suited for outdoor use because of its excellent outdoor life span. Polyester possesses excellent wind resistance and it is the best material for those looking to fly flags in extreme weather conditions. While both nylon and polyester dry quickly, polyester has a better water wicking ability. Polyester also retains its color for a longer period of time.

Polyester Flag Cons:

While polyester flags display good color quality, their surface can appear more dull and it feels rougher to the touch – compared to that of a nylon flag. Since polyester is a bit heavier material than nylon, the flags tend to need a bit heavier breeze to fly. You may end up paying a little more for a polyester flag than nylon or cotton flags.

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Cotton Flag Pros:

Cotton flags are a great choice for indoor presentations or ceremonial uses. Cotton is a very traditional material that displays very rich, vibrant colors. If you need a classic looking flag for indoor use, this is your best choice.

Cotton Flag Cons:

Cotton flags are not weather resistant, nor do they wick water effectively, so they are not meant for extended outdoor use. Cotton also wrinkles easily, which can require more maintenance than nylon or polyester. Cotton is generally more expensive than polyester and nylon flags.

This information is intended to help you make a more informed buying decision. As always, contact us if you have any questions about which flag material is best suited for your intended purpose.

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18 Replies to “Choosing the Proper Flag Material

  1. Thanks for a great summary of the pros and cons of flat material. I live in Yuma AZ and in my area winds get up to 30 mph on a somewhat regular basis so the information was very useful.

    I also agree with your introduction but I had to laugh to myself when you indicated shorts should not be worn in the winter (which is true). However, I lived in Alaska for 16 years and in the cold, cold winter I would see young people in the stores wearing shorts. Could never figure that one out (and made me feel all that more cold).

  2. I am. Making a flag for a military base in thanks for their participation in holdimg and planning the special olympics for all our athletes in our area. What material would you recommend for me to use? It will most likely be indoors and out doors. Thank you

    1. Either fabrics (nylon & polyester) would be acceptable for your use. Nylon will fly in the slightest of breeze, and the polyester is for heavier, more abusive weather. Polyester is a heavier material and will last longer. Hope this helps!

  3. I’m looking to paint flags using fabric paint and they will be hung indoors. Which material would you recommend in terms of cost and compatibility with fabric paint?

  4. Hi,
    Thanks for this blog. We have a 20′ x 30′ polyester flag on a 50′ flag pole at my office. However, after only one year of flying the flag is starting to tatter. How long should this flag last? What type of flag should I buy moving forward? We are in Chicago (windy, cold, blah)

    1. Industry standards state that a flag will last approximately 90 days if flown sunrise to sunset, and is taken down in inclement weather. Some flags can last longer based on conditions, but a year is a very good life-span for a flag! If the end is just starting to fray, you can take the flag to most upholstery shops or a tent and awning shops, and they can repair your flag. Most flags can be repaired if you can catch it in the early stage. You can have it repaired as many times as you want as long as the stripes are longer than the blue field. The polyester flag is the strongest flag in the industry, and would be the flag that we recommend going forward! Hope this helps.

  5. Hello! We have repaired a nylon flag that measures 40′ X 80′. They put it back up on Veteran’s Day and now not 2 wks later it is severely tearing on the strips and the hem. I put a heavy interfacing along the hemline & I did not expect how quickly it tore. From what I’m reading. .. I’m assuming a polyester flag would hold up better.

    1. The early failure can be caused by several issues. When you repair a flag that has been flown for some length of time the fabric has become fatigued. It is best to cut about 1 foot past where the damage was. We recommend when you repair a flag that you use the same amount of folds in the fly hem as was there from the factory. And the same amount of rows of stitching. Adding additional weight to the fly end can cause for early failure. The other variable would be the wind loading. Sustained winds and heavy gusts will cause early failure as well. You are correct that in most cases 2 ply polyester will hold up longer in heavy wind conditions. The cost of the polyester is approximately 30% more than the cost of nylon.

  6. I’d like to know why P O W flags never seem to last very long. Being a former POW from the Viet Nam theater i have been presented a flag from different organizations such as the V F W , American Legion and governors besides buying them myself( not sure if i ever bought one from you) but none of them last long.They frey very rapidly.I have had nylon and poly Please advise.Thankyou Mr Graf

    1. Wind, weather and sun is what causes flags to deteriorate. In most cases 2 ply-polyester will last longer than nylon (but it also costs about 30% more money). You did not mention what size flag you are flying or it is for home or commercial use. I also do not know what period of time “very rapidly” represents. The POW/MIA flags that we sell are U.S. made and (depending on size) have 4 rows of lock stitching on the fly end for longer life. I hope this helps.

  7. I use 100% polyester 150-denier fabric for giant size flag size like 30 feet x 50 feet and 60 feet x 90 feet. We have strong winds in Karachi, Pakistan and the flag gets damage after 25 to 30 days of continuous exposure to sunlight and strong winds. Do you recommend any strong fabric ?

    1. Adeel, heavy duty 2-ply polyester is the longest lasting flag material we know of. This material is a bit stronger than the material that you’re currently using, so you might look into a heavier 2-ply polyester material going forward. Also, if you take the flag down when it first begins to fray on the end you may be able to get longer life. When we repair large flags we cut about 1 foot beyond where the fraying has started. And then have the fly end sewn similar to what is was like from the vendor. We hope this helps!

  8. I am getting ready to make a large Spirit flag for The Middle school i work at. I was wondering what the best material would be to get this done. I am going to paint the material with acrilic paint..

    1. Hello Kathleen, sorry for the delayed response. We are not sure what the best material for your spirit flag would be. Maybe the paint has some recommendations on what is best? We apologize we could not be more helpful with this question.

  9. HI, I rotate my flags on a daily basis and look at the weather forecast for the next day to determine the type of flag that should be flown. Windspeed being the main problem.
    A larger heavier flag in high winds and take down when moderate windspeed is exceeded.
    I do 3 monthly maintenance on the pole, truck, pulley halyard and cleat. How a flag is attached to the halyard and with what can increase the lifespan of the flag (No tension on the grommets, halyard takes the strain. The type of snap clip used can wear grommets can catch on the material. Pollution can shorten the flags life, regular washing can extend the life dramatically ridding the flag from carbon, corrosives, one being sulphuric acid.

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