How long does the Fabric on Outdoor Flags last?

Custom Printed Flag

It is very important to consider what you want to achieve when you buy a flag or a banner, rather than a sign on a solid substrate.


But they do move, which makes it important to keep the message simple – confine it to the BRAND or the MESSAGE and keep it simple. This way it will be truly effective. Human perception is very sophisticated.

If the message is simple, we don’t even notice we are reading in reverse. Flags are not the place to put a complicated product list or phone number. Not even opening hours – messages such as NOW OPEN, or SUMMER SALE with your logo will work incredibly well. And it doesn’t matter if you see this in a mirror, you still know exactly what the message is. And a picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words!

If you drive past the same thing every day, you stop noticing it, right? Banners and flags are quick and easy to change over. Have different banners for different events and seasons.


How long will my flag last?

The life will depend on the flying conditions for the flag or banner, the fabric it is made of and the method of construction. Flying conditions include:

  1. Average wind speed
  2. Proximity to the coast and therefore salt in the wind
  3. The amount of pollution/dust/chemical fumes
  4. The amount of rain and dampness
  5. The number of hours a flag is flown every day/week
  6. The number of hours sunshine for UV damage
  7. How many hours will my flag fly?

The biggest factor in the life of your flag is the number of hours it will be flown. Many people believe they can leave textile signs flying indefinitely 24/7 even during gale force winds and still hope their banner will last many years. Three months 24/7 is over 2000 hours, six months is over 4000 hours and a year is a massive 8760 flying hours! Unless a banner is lit at night, you cannot see it in the dark. Also it is also usually damper at night. Dirty damp banners will inevitably self-destruct.


The next factor is geography. Close to the coast increases strong winds and also deposits abrasive salt crystals on the fabric. Close to main roads increases dirt and pollution which also cause abrasion and some air chemicals (especially diesel fumes) can damage the fibres of the textiles.


The second biggest factor is the actual location of the banner. Close to trees or on the shady side of a building increases mould, sap, insect deposits etc. In an area of full sun there will be UV damage although the highest quality fabrics and inks minimise this. 

Have you have ever watched a Western and heard a stockwhip crack and wondered how the noise is made? Surprisingly it is because the tip of the whip can break the sound barrier. When flags “crack” in the wind the trailing edge isn’t going as fast as the speed of sound, but it can still be vibrating and flapping at incredible speed. Imagine your flag is 1.5M wide and that on average it flutters 10 times a minute.

The trailing edge of the flag probably moves half a meter and back again every flutter. This is 10 meters per minute, 600 meters per hour, 14,400 meters per day and an incredible 5,256,000 meters per year! Polyester fibres are incredibly strong but even they break down after a while. Also remember that wind speed is usually higher at the top of a flagpole where there are less obstructions.


Essentially there are four styles of flag/banner textiles. All are polyester based as this is the longest lasting fibre. 1. Woven open textured material that the wind passes through. 2. Knitted open textured material that the wind passes through. 3. Fabric that the wind cannot pass through. 4. Ripstop fabrics

Loose weave woven fabrics

Traditional flags as per the British Admiralty are made of a loose weave woven fabric with fairly coarse fibres. This material is difficult to print because the fibres are thick and there is little “print through”. This leaves one side of the flag/banner almost white even though the face side can be very bright. Admiralty flags are sewn from pre-dyed material. It is much easier (and therefore cheaper) to sew straight lines, so most traditional flags are striped rather than having complex graphics.

Open Knitted Polyester

The textile of choice for printed flags is knitted polyester. The fibres are not so thick so “print through” is good. Knitted fabrics are incredibly fray resistant so they last well.

Recent advances in knitted technology mean that the latest knitted fabrics do not fray. They may wear away at the corners. However, this is much more preferable to the whole hem ripping off if they are sewn. We recommend that knitted flags are hot cut to seal the edges, but are not hemmed. We also print on a “super endurance knitted polyester” which is the longest lasting printable material available.

Windproof fabrics and double sided

 Some customers request that their flag is identical on both sides and not the reverse image that is on the back of single sided banners. If light cannot pass through the flag, neither can wind. This increases the force and stresses on the flag when the wind blows. Also sewing two layers of fabric introduces the potential of seams failing and increases the weight of the flag and hence the amount of wind damage. When asked to print double sided flags there are many things to consider: 1. The additional weight of the banners 2. The additional force of the wind on your flag 3. The amount of blockout required 4. The problem of seams causing damage 5. The probability of a reduced lifespan compared with a single sided flag. So, consider carefully about buying a double sided flag or banner.


Is ripstop a better fabric? After all, they make yacht sails out of it? Well, they do BUT the science of making a sail is about extracting maximum efficiency from the sail. Sail-makers frown a lot if their sail flaps! Yacht sails don’t have the flapping edge problem that comes from flags fluttering! Sails are made of a woven material because this minimizes stretch. Stretch is not a problem in flags and banners. So the short answer is no, ripstop is not better except in a few situations where the flag must be extremely light weight, or it will be tethered on all four sides.


· HEM Do you want your flags hemmed? Will this stop my flag from fraying? Will my flag look better with a hem? A hem needs a row of thread which can have the same effect as a wire in a piece of cheese. Also there is the edge of the hem which causes friction on its own. A woven fabric has straight threads than can be pulled, so a hem is a good idea. Knitted fabrics don’t, so hems are not a good idea.

· THREAD There are new threads available which are 100% UV resistant and are almost impossible to rot. They are very expensive, with a flag sewn using Tenara ™ thread will use several pounds worth of thread. From a flying point of view, the risk is that this thread is abrasive enough to wear through the polyester flag! This thread is great for awnings and the like that don’t move but not at all good for flags.

· ANTI-FRAY TAPE We can also use an anti-fray tape on the “flapping” edge of the flag. However – the additional costs may be better spent on replacing your flag slightly more often.


Only YOU can look after your banner.

  1. Always take your banner in during storms.
  2. Consider if the same banner has the same impact if it is always there. Rotate several flags to increase the impact of your message.
  3. Keep your flag clean. A wash in a normal cycle with normal washing liquid at 40C is excellent. The tumble dryer is not a very good idea.
  4. Don’t store your flag wet – Polyester is mildew resistant, but not mildew proof. Bleaching out black mildew patches WILL DESTROY YOUR FLAG!
  5. Don’t use heavy duty cleaners EVER!
  6. Make sure your flagpole isn’t rough and rusty.
  7. If you stop noticing your banner, chances are your customers have too!

If you look after your banners and flags they should last around 2000-4000 flying hours and the trailing edge will move between 1,000,000 – 2,000,000 meters.

Given the average cost of a banner or flag, this means your banner costs are often as low as around £0.03 pence per hour flying time. Not bad value!

Posted by Rob on September 8th 2015

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