What to Know When Considering Embalming

For Families Making Difficult Decisions

The practice of embalming the deceased in America began during the Civil War. President Lincoln commissioned a doctor to embalm the bodies of over 4,000 fallen soldiers in order to have them safely transported home. The practice remained largely unused after the war, but undertakers towards the 20th century began offering the service to paying families as an additional funerary option. To this day, Orlando funeral homes and others throughout the country provide embalming services. However, varying differences over tradition, religious beliefs, and personal preferences have made embalming as controversial as cremation. There are numerous facts to consider if you are unsure.   

The Benefits of Embalming

Funeral homes in Orlando practice and often encourage embalming for 3 main purposes: to disinfect, to preserve, and to restore.


Disinfection of the body eliminates any harmful bacteria that may exist, especially if the person died of some contagious disease. For this reason, many states require by law that a body is embalmed before transporting long distances.


Embalming fluid slows down the rate of decomposition, allowing for more time to either transport the remains or complete important final arrangements for the service. Without embalming, families are limited to only a few days for preparation, compared to a few weeks with proper embalming.


Many families wish to follow the tradition of a final viewing (sometimes known as a wake). This act creates what is often referred to in Orlando funeral homes as a “positive picture memory”, an opportunity to visually see your loved one at a peaceful rest. In reality, when we die our bodies become rigidly warped, bloated, and drained of color. To alleviate this haunting picture, the embalmer will usually pose the body in a dignified position and apply makeup and props to create a more natural and less painful image of the deceased.

The Risks and Unknown Facts

What few people know about the process of embalming, and what funeral homes in Orlando do not care to advertise, are the exact details of the unpleasant process. The blood is drained from the body and replaced with embalming fluid, and the inner body cavity is emptied of organs and stuffed in such a way that many find appalling. Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and other religions are strictly opposed to this practice, deeming it a desecration of the body. The use of makeup and props to create an illusion of comfort is seen by many as plainly offensive.    

Additionally, embalmers suffer from a higher risk of cancer from exposure to embalming fluid. Formaldehyde, a toxic chemical used in embalming, creates a growing concern for the Orlando funeral home and the environment. Add this concern to the hundreds of dollars spent on embalming costs, and many families find it preferable to do without the unnecessary process. Ultimately, it is the decision of the surviving family to choose the best option.