Cremation has become an increasingly popular choice for a range of reasons. It’s economical, low-fuss, and offers families a ton of flexibility. Curious as to how it all goes down? Find out more in our guide to the cremation process.
What Is Cremation?
Cremation is the process of reducing a body to basic elements and bone fragments through incineration at high temperatures. How high, exactly? It usually ranges from between 760 to 980 degrees Celsius. This happens in a specially designed chamber, called a retort, that has been constructed exclusively for the purposes of human cremation.
How Cremation Works
The First Steps
Before the cremation process begins, the body needs to be checked for any metal or medical devices that may be present. This often happens before the body even arrives at the crematorium. Because the temperatures are so high, there’s a risk that some implants and devices could cause dangerous reactions. The most common items that funeral directors must remove before a body is inserted into the retort are:
- Jewellery: Most jewellery and other accessories such as watches will break down during cremation and should be removed from the body prior to cremation.
- Pacemakers: Pacemakers must be removed because they could explode during the cremation process. Other surgical implants could cause the same reaction so it’s important that funeral directors be well-versed in cremation safety.
The Cremation Process
The next step is to place the body into a casket or a container, depending on the choice of the family of the deceased. The retort is then preheated and the body is inserted using a mechanised door. When the process starts, the body is exposed to a column of flames in order to incinerate it. Due to the body’s high water content, most of it simply gets vaporised and turns into smoke that is processed inside the retort. The process takes anywhere between three to four hours depending on the power of the retort and the mass of the body inserted. After this step is completed, the cremated bones will come out of the retort and then be processed.
What happens after the process is done?
Most of the time, the bones that come out of the retort are too big to be processed any further so they are pulverized into smaller pieces by a cremation technician. These remains are then placed into a tray that is left to cool off. Should any metal parts of the container or devices not removed prior to cremation still be present, they’ll be stored or disposed of according to local rules and regulations. Next, the remains are then placed into a device called a cremulator. Cremulators crush the cremated remains into a fine, sand-like powder. Typically white or grey in colour, they resemble ashes (hence the name). Finally, the cremated remains are transferred into a container or urn and returned to the family.
- Crematorium: Also known as a crematory, crematoriums are the facilities in which the remains of a deceased person are cremated.
- Retort: Also known as the cremation chamber, retorts are especially designed chambers in which remains of the deceased are cremated and processed.
- Container: A box or a casket in which a deceased body is placed before being inserted into a retort.
- Cremulator: A device that is used by funeral directors or technicians in order to grind cremated bones and bone fragments into ashes.
For information about planning a cremation service or if you’d like to know more, have a look at our cremation services resources.