Seven Surprising Embalming Facts: Here’s What Every Consumer Should Know

embalming fluid antique label

If you are searching for accurate embalming facts, it’s important to separate the truth from the misinformation.


Many have heard about embalming and most of us just assume it’s standard procedure for funeral preparations. In truth, many misconceptions surround the embalming process and its necessity. Please read on to learn more about this practice, along with seven embalming facts that may surprise you.


What is embalming and why is it performed?

When a body is embalmed, the bodily fluids are removed and replaced with formaldehyde-based chemical solutions that will delay decomposition. Then the body is prepared for viewing by styling the hair, applying makeup, and setting the facial features. Embalming is typically used when the body will be on display for a visitation or wake, or if there will be an open casket at the funeral, as it ensures that the remains of the departed are suitable for public viewing.


Here are seven facts about embalming that you may not know:


1. In most cases, embalming is not required by law.

The Federal Trade Commission and many state regulators require that funeral directors inform consumers that embalming is not required except in certain special cases. Embalming is mandated when a body crosses state lines from Alabama, Arkansas, and New Jersey, and several others require it if public transportation is used.


2. Religious or cultural considerations may apply.

While embalming is fairly common in the United States, many religions and cultures strictly forbid it. For example, Muslim and orthodox Jewish faiths consider embalming to be a desecration of the body and prohibit it. Hindus and Buddhists generally choose cremation, so they have no need for embalming. If you will be observing any religious customs at your loved one’s funeral, check with your local religious leader to ensure that embalming is an acceptable method of body preservation.


3. It does not preserve the human body indefinitely.

Embalming does delay the natural after-death process but this period of time is not interminable. The rate of decomposition varies depending on the strength of the chemicals and methods used, and the humidity and temperature of the final resting place. Whether or not a body has been embalmed, the ambient temperature has the greatest effect on the decomposition process. For instance, in a warm climate, even an embalmed body will decompose rapidly in a sealed casket that is placed in above-ground entombment.


4. Embalming came to the U.S. in the 19th century.

The earliest forms of embalming can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, who included similar practices in their burial rituals and rites. French and Italian scientists refined the process in the early 1900s. The practice of embalming eventually made its way to America during the Civil War, where it was frequently used to help delay the composition of soldiers who had died in combat. By injecting preservatives into the veins, it allows the bodies to be transported long distances before their burial. President Abraham Lincoln was one of the earliest adopters. Lincoln’s body was embalmed after his assassination to allow for public viewing across the country.


5. There are alternatives to embalming.

Funeral homes are required to offer direct or immediate burial without embalming. In this case, the body is placed in a casket or other container and buried within a few days without visitation or funeral service. When there is a delay in making funeral service arrangements, refrigeration can be used to maintain the body. Evan W. Smith Funeral Services has on-site refrigeration facilities for this purpose.


6. Green embalming is growing in popularity.

If you are seeking an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional embalming, green embalming may be the way to go. In this case, the traditional embalming fluids and harsh chemicals are replaced with non-toxic and non-carcinogenic embalming fluid that is made with biodegradable essential oils. This method does not add harmful chemicals to the Earth once the body is buried and the decomposition process begins.


7. The choice is always yours.

You should reasonably expect that your funeral director will inform you about the embalming process and its advantages, disadvantages, and associated costs.


We hope you found these embalming facts helpful and informative. At Evan W. Smith Funeral Services, providing you with excellent, compassionate care is always our priority. If you have questions or require our assistance, please contact us anytime.


About Evan W. Smith Funeral Services: Since 2009, residents of Wilmington, Dover, and the surrounding Delaware community have relied on the caring staff at Evan W. Smith Funeral Services to help them through their darkest hours. Family-owned and operated, the company offers an array of elite funeral care services, including traditional funerals, cremations, memorials, pre-planning, grief counseling, and more. With decades of experience in caring for families from all cultural backgrounds and diverse walks of life, Evan W. Smith Funeral Services is committed to creating memorable, uplifting experiences that always exceed expectations. For more information, please visit

Leave a Reply 0 comments

> More Comments

We appreciate your interest in this topic
In accordance with our policy, this
message has been declined.