Due to the popularity of my article, How Long does it Take For a Body to Decompose, I decided to add a follow up article for inquiring minds. So; how long DOES it take to embalm a body? The short answer is approximately 2 hours. Blood is simultaneously drained while embalming fluid is injected into the body. Bear in mind that the condition of the body will influence the degree of difficulty and therefore the level of technical ability needed. Under ideal conditions, here is what happens during the process of embalming.
First, the body is prepared by washing and disinfecting the skin. This bacteria is a naturally occurring part of the process of decay and is responsible for breaking down tissues. The bacteria responsible for this decay are members of the Staphylococcus genus and Clostridia genus which are naturally present on our bodies. In addition, our intestinal organisms, which help us to digest food while we are alive, begin to attack our tissues internally after we die. This process causes the body to bloat and emit gasses and fluids, which is why it is important to disinfect the body to prevent this process from happening too quickly while the embalming process is taking place. A small incision is made into a main artery – most often in the neck for men and the leg (femoral artery) for women. Another incision is made into a vein. Embalming fluid is introduced into the body through the arterial site while blood is drained from the body at the venous site. This process takes approximately 2 hours. Although embalmers do their best to remove all the blood from the body, through massaging the muscles, it is nearly impossible to get every last drop.
Next, blood, fluid and residual food and waste materials are removed from the body cavity, while embalming fluid is added to prevent/retard decomposition. Hollow organs are filled with embalming fluid at this point.
Finally, the body is prepared for a viewing at a funeral by adding make up, and other little touches to make it appear restful. The mouth and eyes sometimes have cosmetic sutures to set them in lifelike, relaxed pose. A fluid is sometimes injected into areas of the face to make them appear more lifelike and to reverse the appearance of any decomposition that began before the embalming process was started. Men and women’s faces are shaved because hair can trap deposits of visible makeup. If, while alive, the man wore facial hair, it is left in tact.
Embalming a body does not stop it from decomposing, but rather slows the process significantly. Some bodies stay relatively in tact for years after burial, but the climate, choice of coffin and skill of the embalmer will all play a role in how long a body is preserved.