How to prepare a dead body for embalming

Updated March 23, 2017

The process of embalming, or preserving a body after it is deceased, involves more than just the exchanging of blood for embalming fluid. The body must be properly prepared prior to embalming.

Undress the body. This does not only involve removing all clothing items from the deceased. You must also remove all accessories, jewellery and make up. Medical paraphernalia such as bandages, needles, catheters, braces and pacemakers must also be removed.

Clean the body. Using a strong disinfectant, carefully wash the entire body. Rub down all of the skin, even between the fingers and toes and other hard-to-see areas. The eyes, mouth and other openings of the body must also be carefully cleaned.

Loosen up the body. If rigor mortis has set in, it is important to release the muscles and limbs from this stiffness. Move the head and neck around, as well as the arms and legs at the joints. Massage the muscles in the arms, legs and shoulders enough that movement is restored to them.

Prepare the body for viewing. Some of the steps that must be done to make the body viewable at the funeral should be taken care of prior to embalming. These include shaving the face and closing the eyes and mouth. Traditionally, the eyes are closed by placing a piece of cotton between the eyeball and eyelid, though sometimes the eyelids will actually be glued together. A plastic eye cap may be placed over the eyeball before the eye is closed because eyeballs tend to shrink or go flat after death. The mouth can be tied shut with suture string on the inside of the jaw or can be closed by using a resin-like compound called a "mastic compound" that works like caulking.

Open the body for fluid removal. For the blood to drain out of the body and the embalming fluid to enter the body, incisions have to be made into a vein and artery where the fluid tubes can be placed. This is usually done in the neck, though sometimes the incision is made in the armpit or groin area.

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About the Author

Melissa Voelker has been a professional writer since 2002. She works full time at a TV station in the commercial traffic department and also writes for and Her articles have appeared in "Listen," "The Spokesman Review" and "Freepress Houston."