Preserving a dead body – is it always necessary?

What is embalming?

Simply put, embalming is the process of temporarily preserving a corpse by draining the blood and fluids from the body and replacing them with a chemical solution.

Welcome to Embalming 101 (Video)

How did embalming become a common practice?

While it’s true that cultures all over the world have preserved bodies (see: ancient Egyptian mummification), embalming as it is practiced today began during the American Civil War.



Here is a video from one of our Order members on Lincoln’s Corpse, following the origins of the modern funeral industry beginning with the Civil War and the unusual embalming & burial of President Abraham Lincoln. Even more here: The Embalming Craze During the Civil War.

Is embalming dangerous to the embalmer?

While embalmers no longer use arsenic to preserve dead bodies (that was for sure dangerous), the use of formaldehyde can also be deadly. Studies have found that male embalmers are at a higher risk for leukemia and ALS.

I dive more into this subject in an Ask a Mortician – Is Embalming Dangerous?


Is the dead body dangerous without embalming?

One of the biggest myths about embalming is that the process is necessary to sanitize the body and make it safe for the family to view. Is it true that a dead body is dangerous without embalming?

I address the subject two separate Ask a Morticians – Are Dead Bodies dangerous? & Ebola From Dead Bodies?

From the Funeral Consumer’s Alliance:

Embalming provides no public health benefit, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Canadian health authorities. Many morticians have been taught, however, that embalming protects the public health, and they continue to perpetuate this myth.

In fact, embalming chemicals are highly toxic. Embalmers are required by OSHA to wear a respirator and full-body covering while embalming.

Read more on this at Embalming: What you should know.