How Do Embalming Fluids Work?

posted September 5th, 2012 by admin

Being a mortician is an incredibly important job. Without morticians, funerals as we know them would not be possible. It is through the mortician’s job of embalming that open casket funerals and wakes are possible for the family and friends of the deceased.

Embalming fluids consist of a mixture of different chemicals that are used in order to disinfect, sanitize, and preserve the human body before burial. The chemicals contained in the fluid typically consist of ethanol, methanol, and formaldehyde. According to the 2007 PERC Reports, approximately 20 million liters of the fluid are used within the U.S. each year as a means of preserving human bodies in funeral homes and mortuaries. 

Logic Behind the Embalming Process

The process of embalming has been in existence for eons. Historically, embalming was performed for religious as well as ceremonial reasons. Perhaps one of the most well known are the mummies of ancient Egypt. Today, the technique is used to delay the decay of human remains so that loved ones can be viewed by family and friends and goodbyes can be said. Morticians are paid to provide the body with a realistic, “life-like” appearance designed to make the deceased look as if he or she is merely sleeping. Without embalming, the body would begin to decay too quickly for wakes and open casket funerals to be allowed.

How the Embalming Process Works

Bacteria, which consumes the dead skin tissue of the deceased, is the cause of decomposition. To combat decay, the embalming fluid is used to kill any bacteria that would otherwise decompose flesh. Arterial solution, another term for the embalming mixture, is not all the same. In some cases, such as when the deceased was sick with cancers or the like and decomposition began before death, different solution may be used. In this case, a stronger “waterless” solution is often used. The concentration of preservatives can be increased or decreased, depending on how long the body needs to be preserved. In some situations, the family may desire the body to be shipped to another location. In cases such as these, morticians must preserve the body for up to several weeks.

The Embalming Process

To preserve the body, the embalming school will teach you how to inject the fluid into the arteries of the body using a large needle. The embalming fluid acts as a replacement for the blood which is removed from the body. Along with replacing blood, embalming fluids can also be used to replace other fluids as well. Each human body will typically require around two gallons of embalming fluid.

Once the fluid is inserted, the vascular system becomes pressurized with the fluid, allowing for the embalming solution to reach all areas of the body. This can be seen through the bulging of the veins in the body. The jugular drain is opened every now and then to prevent swelling due to excessive pressure. Once the injection into the deceased’s arteries has been completed, the holes are sutured and sealed.

Commonwealth Institute of Funeral Service · 415 Barren Springs Drive · Houston, Texas 77090 · www.commonwealth.edu