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7 Questions About Embalming, Answered

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Many families have questions about embalming–what it is, what it’s used for, if they need to do it when planning services—among others.

Embalming is the attempted preservation and disinfection of a lost loved one, typically chosen by families that wish to have a funeral or memorial service prior to final disposition.

Generally, embalming enhances the body’s appearance to enable close friends and family members to see their lost loved ones as they looked prior to the loss. Embalming also lengthens the time between death and final disposition, giving the family of the deceased enough time to arrange services with a funeral home or crematory.

To help you and your family better understand the purpose and the process behind embalming, we answer some of the most commonly asked questions below.

1. What is the purpose of embalming?

When it comes to the embalming process, there are three main goals:

1. Sanitization of the body.
2. Making the body presentable/more lifelike.
3. Preservation of the body.

Embalming is a surgical procedure that is minimally invasive. The actual process is typically made up of four parts, which includes applying embalming fluid internally and externally.

The entire embalming process can vary in length, but in most cases, can take about an hour to complete—dressing and putting makeup on the body can extend that time to a few hours.

2. Is embalming necessary by law?

Each state has its own rules and regulations governing embalming. While the state of Ohio does not require embalming, a body must be embalmed, refrigerated or placed in an odor-proof container within 48 hours after death.

Under the Funeral Rule enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, funeral homes and crematories are required to inform families that embalming is not required for certain cases.

3. Is embalming required for cremation? Burial?

In most cases, embalming is not required for simple cremation or immediate burial. This is because these methods take place immediately following a death, with no service beforehand.

If the family chooses to have a public viewing or gathering with the body present prior to the burial or cremation, a funeral home or crematory may require embalming.

4. How long does embalming last?

The length of time an embalmed body will not decay is dependent on the types of chemicals used in the fluid, the amount of fluid used and the general conditions that the body is kept in.

An embalmed body placed in a casket enables the body to last for many years depending on the type of material used.

5. How much does embalming cost?

The price of embalming is generally two-fold, with funeral homes and crematories charging for both the embalming process and other preparation and care of the deceased. 

This includes:   

  • Sanitary washing
  • Restorative art to recreate natural form and color
  • Dressing
  • Hairdressing
  • Cosmetology
  • Casketing, or the placement of remains in a casket

For a breakdown of these services, ask for a General Price List (GPL) from the funeral home or crematory you’re arranging services with.

6. Who has the right to decide?

The deceased may have outlined whether they wished to be embalmed in a preplanning document. However, if there is no preplanning contract or the individual that has passed did not specify, then it is the personal choice of the family and the person who holds the right of disposition under state law (the deceased’s next-of-kin) will have the right to decide.

7. Do certain religious and/or cultural customs forbid embalming? 

Although embalming is a fairly common practice, some religious and cultural customs prohibit embalming and other preparation and care of the deceased.

If you’re unsure whether or not embalming is an acceptable method of body preservation, check with the religious leader at your place of worship. A funeral home or crematory will work with you to ensure your religious and/or cultural needs are met, while abiding by Ohio embalming laws.

Preplan to Settle Your Final Arrangements Now

Deciding whether you’d like to be embalmed is one of the many final wishes you can document when you preplan your own final arrangements. With preplanning, you arrange all aspects of your funeral to give you and your loved ones peace of mind.

Download our Seniors’ Guide to Funeral Arrangements to learn how preplanning can save you time, money and worry.

Download our preplanning guide

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness. 

Meghan Burmeister
Meghan Burmeister
Skillfully and compassionately manages our Avon and Avon Lake locations. Meghan and her husband, Bill, enjoy vacations with their son Otto, while also supporting community, church and school events. Graciously serving Busch families since 1998.

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