How Does the Embalming Process Before a Funeral Work?

Before embalming can begin, the funeral director or embalming professional disinfects the body and closes the body's eyes and mouth. They then use an embalming machine to inject a solution of formaldehyde and water into the bloodstream, usually through the carotid artery and the jugular vein. After the injection is complete, embalmers treat the body's organs using a trocar and an aspirator to remove all liquids and gases from inside the body. Finally, cosmetics and proper clothing are applied.

The technical definition of the embalming process is simply the removal of blood from the body in favor of a formaldehyde solution. This process is necessary because bacteria grow best in a moist environment, and blood gravitates and causes a purplish-red discoloration if it is not removed after death. The formaldehyde solution also counteracts the body's lysosome system, which is programmed to release enzymes after death that aid in decomposition and tissue breakdown.

Modern embalming focuses heavily on the appearance of the body due to the proliferation of open-casket wake and funeral traditions. The formaldehyde solution is often tinted pink to restore the skin to a more natural color, funeral directors are expected to apply makeup to men and women to make facial features appear more natural. The final step of the embalming process is the placement of the body in a casket, typically provided by the family of the deceased.