What Is the Embalming Process?

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Embalming to preserve the body for burial dates back to ancient Egyptians.
Embalming to preserve the body for burial dates back to ancient Egyptians.

Embalming is the process of preparing a body for the funeral services. Chemicals preserve the body temporarily so the family and friends of the departed individual can have a memorial service. The embalming process also gives the family more time in case the deceased must be transferred to another location for the funeral services. Embalming requires knowledge of anatomy, chemistry, pathology, cosmetology and body restoration.

  1. Preparation

    • When the funeral home first receives the body, personnel will remove all clothing and jewelry. Funeral home personnel will clean all clothing, or destroy the clothing if necessary. They will inventory the jewelry and return it to the family. They will either spray down the body or sponge it with a disinfectant chemical to clean the mouth, nose and eyes. They will flex and massage the arms and legs to break down the rigor mortis.

    Closing the Mouth

    • Funeral home personnel will close the deceased person's mouth in such a way that the top and bottom close together in a way that looks natural. They will use a needle injector to shoot a needle between the lips and gums on both the top and bottom. Each needle will have a protruding piece of wire so that the wires can be pulled in order to close the mouth tightly. Before the lips are completely close, they will fill the mouth with cotton. Then, they will pull the lips shut, so the mouth rests in a closed position. They will inject a thick, pink gel called the feature fixer into the tip of the nose and any place on the face that looks thin. This gives the skin a natural tone and texture.

    Arterial Embalming

    • Funeral home personnel will make small incisions in the jugular vein and in the carotid artery. They will insert tubes into both, which are connected to the embalming pump. They will pump embalming fluid into the body, pushing the blood through the body and out the other tube. The embalming fluid will usually have a slight pink tint, which gives the body a more lifelike appearance. If there are no blood clots or extensive trauma to the body, this will be only one of two injection sites on the body.

    Visceral Embalming

    • Once the arteries are free of blood, personnel must drain the internal organs as well. They will insert a metal tube approximately 2 feet long with a tube attached to one end into the body through an incision just above the navel. This metal tube, called a trocar, is used to drain fluid from the internal organs and the abdominal cavity. Once they drain the bodily fluids, the pressure is reversed and the trocar is used to push embalming chemicals into the organs. The incision is sutured closed when this is completed.

    Grooming

    • Funeral home personnel will wash the body with cool water and a germicidal soap with bleach in order to kill all bacteria or viruses present. They will clean all fingernails and wash the hair. They will clean any remaining traces of blood from the body to prepare for the funeral service. They will shave the face, regardless if the body is male or female. This ensures the final makeup will go on smoothly. Personnel will remove excess hair from the ears and nose. They will then dress the body in the clothes the family has chosen, and style the hair.

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