Flagpole Care

FlagPole Care

Cleaning of Mild Dirt or Debris:
A garden hose, with low to moderate pressure can be used to wash off most dirt and debris that may be on the flagpole. If it still does not come off of the shaft, use of a wet cloth should be tried. If necessary, a mild soap or detergent may be used (items such as Go Jo hand cleaner or liquid soaps). We must warn that the cleaning of any surface that is anodized or painted should be done with great care and that it should be tested on a small ‘test’ area where the finish will not be seen (ground set poles can be tested in the area which will go into the ground sleeve). Rinse away any remaining soap to prevent future reactions with the metal.

Cleaning and Removal of Water Stains:
The following are options to try in removing these stains from shafts in the order of least reactive to most reactive (please follow safety procedures and not let chemicals come in contact with skin or other body parts – if you do come in contact with the chemical please follow directions on the container or contact a doctor immediately for advice – if chemicals or ingested contact your local poison control hotline immediately). Please dispose of chemicals carefully in correlation with all local and federal guidelines after use.

1. Run a stream of warm or cold water over the stained area using low to moderate pressure from a water hose. Use of a soft cloth may be used to gently rub the affected spot.
2. Mild liquid soaps can be used to aid in removal of the stain. If the pole is painted or anodized, a small spot should be tested first to verify the finish will not be damaged by the product being used.
3. The solution of Lemon oil + Pumice + Pumice Hand Cleaner with soft rags can remove most stains.
Attention: For the following options, always test a spot before proceeding due to the chemical nature of these products. These could cause damage to anodized or painted finishes if not used carefully. For Anodized poles, soap and 4. water is typically sufficient to clean any dirt or stains and the following options are not suggested.
4. Household cleaners such as 409, Lysol, or Texize can be applied with a soft cloth and applied in a circular motion. It is best to rub around the shaft, in the same direction as the sanding marks, to prevent scratches or scarring.
5. Naval Jelly, Zepalen, Sodium Hydroxide, and Diluted Drano (50/50 concentration with water) can be used and applied in the same manner as #3, making sure to rinse clean when complete.
6. Aluminum Alloy Wheel Cleaner, purchased at most retail stores handling automotive supplies. This cleaner should be sprayed directly onto the stained area per the bottle’s instructions. A soft cloth should be used to clean the area, in the direction of the sanding marks. In severe cases, the use of a stainless steel wire brush can be used in the direction of the original sanding marks. Depending on the severity of the stain, the process may need to be repeated several times to eliminate the entire stain. If steel bristles are used, rust may set up over time causing the appearance of a stain.
7. Notes to remember:
• Aluminum can be exposed to almost any solvent for a short period of time without any adverse effects. If a cleaner contains oil or wax, a dry cloth should be used to help remove.
• Heat accelerates chemical reactions. Cleaners may become overactive or may evaporate too quickly in hot temperatures. It may also create streaks leaving an improper finish. Cold temperatures inhibit the chemical process. Try to clean on a mild day in shaded areas.
• Spot testing – place solution on unobtrusive portion of the finish (the part below ground or side away from normal view) in concentration and manner you plan to use for the same length of time. Rinse clean, let dry, and inspect. Check painted or anodized poles for softening/dissolution of color in grain.
• NEVER mix chemicals for your own safety.
• Do not let chemicals come in contact with other materials or yourself.

Cleaning and Removal or Other Types of Stains:
In rare instances a chemical or paint can be spilled onto a shaft when at the job site. In this instance, the options given above for water staining should be attempted. If these do not work, you may also wish to try the following (using same guidelines as above for your safety). These include:

1. Paint Thinner/Remover
2. The affected areas as described below.

Remember: No chemical treatment or sanding should be tried on any pole with a painted or anodized finish. Only those with a directionally sanded finish should be considered for these options.

Visible Scratches To Directionally Sanded Surfaces:
If scratch marks are present from shipping or from handling on the job site, the following procedures can be used to attempt a repair on the shaft’s finish. Again, we would warn that these sanding procedures should not be attempted on anodized or painted shaft assemblies.

1. Use an aluminum oxide sanding belt, 80 grit or higher, such as is used with portable electric belt sanders. These are available through most hardware stores.
2. Take the belt and break at one point along the loop to have one long single piece.
3. Pull the belt back and forth (similar to a shoe shining motion) over the stained area of the pole in the same direction as the existing sanding lines on the pole. If care is used in the process, a satin finish equal to the original factory finish can be achieved. See below drawing for motion indicated:


Aluminum poles may have a mechanical finish, an anodized finish or an applied organic coating. Whatever the finish, little or no maintenance will normally be required because rainfall in most areas will remove the dirt and soil that may be deposited on surface. However, should a build-up of dirt and soil occur, washing the surface with a mild detergent is advised. This is the only maintenance ever required for Architectural Class 1 anodized finishes or for high performance, thermally cured, organic coatings. In the case of the brushed mechanical finish, if the surface appearance becomes objectionably discolored by contaminants, the finish may be restored by the use of special cleaning agents.

Because steel flagpoles are finished with some type of applied coating, most of them sooner or later require refinishing. The life of the coating depends on the pre-coating preparation of the metal, the type of coating used, and the atmospheric conditions to which it is exposed. Coating life expectancy ranges from 2 or 3 years for ordinary field-applied paints to perhaps 20 years or more for the sometimes specified thermally cured high performance coatings. For the conventional painted finishes periodic maintenance should be provided whenever the paint becomes dingy or rust spots appear. Rust and loose paint should be removed, bare spots primed, and a new coating applied. For installations in seacoast locations or corrosive industrial atmospheres, the rust resistance of steel can be greatly increased if the pole is hot dip galvanized before painting.

Most bronze have a lacquered statuary bronze finish. Over a period of several years, the length of time depending on atmospheric conditions, the lacquer coating gradually erodes the surface color to darken. Thereafter a natural patina develops. If such a patina is the desired effect-and often it is-then little or no maintenance is required. However, if it is desired to prevent the development of the patina periodic maintenance is essential, and this involves a yearly oiling with a mixture of lemon oil and high grade parafin oil. In rare instances it may be desirable, for some reason, to restore the original finish. This can be done by stripping down to bare metal and applying a new chemical finish.

Stainless Steel 
Stainless steel poles require little or no care to maintain their finish indefinitely. For esthetic reasons only, occasional washing may be desirable in some locations, but otherwise they are maintenance free.

Conventional external halyards should be checked every three months for signs of wear and need for replacement. The cost of replacement can be minimized if they are replaced when wear first becomes apparent, before a break occurs. This can be accomplished without climbing the pole. Simply butt the end of the new rope to one end of the old rope and thread a fine wire through both, at about 1″ from their ends. Then tightly wrap the wire around the rope over the 2″ length and cover the resulting splice with a layer of tape. Finally, carefully hoist the joined ropes up the pole, over the sheave and down to the starting position.
When replacement becomes necessary it should be recognized that although manila cotton ropes have given good service over the years, the modern synthetic ropes are far superior. Braided polypropylene and nylon are generally recommended as the best halyard materials, because of their strength, mildew and rot resistance, and exceptional wearing qualities.

The amount of maintenance care required for flagpole fittings depends upon the type of halyard system provided. With conventional external halyards, about the only items that should be checked periodically are the flag attachment devices on the halyard. If these become damaged or cease to function properly they should be replaced. Truck assemblies are designed to be maintenance free, and other items such as finials, cleats, cleat boxes and halyard protectors require no attention, either, under normal circumstances. With internal halyard systems, however, periodic inspection and maintenance of certain parts is essential, to insure trouble-free operation. It is recommended that the winch shaft and dog be lubricated at monthly intervals and the following items be checked for wear at the same time:

Halyard cable (check for kinks or frays)
Cable fittings, including flag attachments 
Counterweight cover and attachments 
Restraining sling 
Dog and spring assembly
Mounting bolts (check for tightness)

The cable should be replaced if found to be kinked or frayed. The sling should be replaced when worn, the counterweight when its neoprene cover shows excessive wear. Other parts-cable clamps, shackles, flag attachments, dog and spring, winch and lock-should of course be replaced when found to have excessive wear or are not functioning properly.

Halyard rope, regardless of type, should never be used as a means of hoisting a person aloft. Only a qualified workman with proper equipment should be allowed to climb a flagpole. A locked cleat cover insures against tampering with the halyard at the cleat, but does not prevent vandals from cutting the rope above the box (or even above a halyard protector). Do not use sash chain or wire rope to prevent such vandalism, because they will damage the shaft finish. The beating of metal flag snaps against the pole shaft, when the flag is not attached, tends to damage the shaft finish. When the flag is removed, wrap the halyard around the pole in a few long spiral turns, to prevent the noise made by the wind whipping the halyard against the pole, and position the flag snaps near or on the cleat.