How Long Do Cremated Ashes Last? Storage and Nature

Published January 25, 2021
Funeral urns

Cremation continues to be a popular choice for the interment of a body. It allows family members the ability to hold onto their loved one's remains indefinitely or just while decisions are being made for its final resting place. When people are considering the option of cremation, many will want to know, "How long to cremated ashes last?" Several things need to be considered as decisions are made within the grieving process.

Understanding Cremains

What is left of the body after the cremation process are bone fragments. Although they are called ash, it really is just remains from the cremation process. The organic material of the body is incinerated during the procedure. Here are several interesting facts about the cremains.

  • The cremains are mostly dry calcium phosphates, along with other minerals, including potassium and sodium.
  • They are a white-grey color and weigh about five pounds.
  • Because the process leaves bone fragments, a tall person leaves more remains than a shorter one.
  • Men generally have more dense bones than women. Young people often have more dense bones that older people. Therefore, a younger male's ashes will weigh more than an elderly woman's.
  • Ashes generally weigh about 3.5% of the original weight and about 2.5% for children.

Cremains in the Ground

The way that cremains are buried in the ground will affect how long it takes for the degrading process to occur and become a part of the soil. In some settings, cremains are buried in the ground without either an urn or a tomb. The process for degrading is relatively short. Biodegradable urns speed the process but still may take up to twenty years to degrade. Once the biodegrade happens, the body will unite with the soil quickly.

Burying cremation ashes at gravesite

Cremains in Water

Water distributes cremains quickly, which is the reason many choose scattering or burying the ashes in the water. There is evidence that cremains actually help build "artificial" coral reefs. This positive contribution to the environment provides comfort to the grieving family. When using an urn to store the ashes before scattering or burial, the family and mourners have more time to say goodbye. When burying into the water, a biodegradable urn allows a quicker degrading process.

Cremains in an Urn

Cremains can last for a very long time in an urn with a strong seal. Archaeologists have found the remains of cremated individuals who had lived over a thousand years ago. Urns meant for storage in a home are prepared and sealed for a considerable period.

How Long Do Cremated Ashes Last?

This is a question that many ask, but that does not have an easy answer. The amount of time that cremains last depends on the factors above. Actually, the ashes are neither ash nor completely organic material. The cremains do not biodegrade naturally over time. They can cease to be cremains because they become mixed with soil, water, or air to such an extent they no longer remain intact as the family first received them.

Better Preserving Cremains

When considering the various storage options for the cremains of a loved one, several factors need to be considered. Each storage option provides ways to better preserve the cremains.

Storing Cremains at Home

Many people want to keep cremains in an urn at home, but doing so carries certain risks. Urns can be valuable and are thus vulnerable to theft. Destruction of urns can occur through a variety of natural disasters. Plumbing issues are a huge concern, because if the urn breaks, the cremains may become subject to degrading. When home storage chosen, there are professional services which treat the remains and prepare the security of the urn.

Professional Options

Cremains can be stored in a mausoleum, crypt, or columbarium. While theft and other risk factors cannot be eliminated completely, the potential risk factor diminishes through these facilities. The owners of the property will be able to inform you of specific steps taken to enhance security.

Columbarium wall

Choose the Right Urn

When preserving the cremains for lengthy times is a goal, the quality of the urn should be the primary consideration. Select the most durable and secure urn that your budget can support. Many companies provide professional guidance demonstrating the product. They may also provide maintenance suggestions and techniques.

Alternatives Are Available

Preservation methods beyond urns continue to surface regularly. An increasingly popular choice is infusing cremains into jewelry. Assuming the jewelry is not lost, preserving the body is becoming easier.

A Complicated Subject

The preservation of cremains is always a difficult subject to discuss. There are several factors that need to be considered when wondering, "How long do cremated ashes last?" Cremation provides a choice that can honor the dead and bring practical support to the surviving family.

How Long Do Cremated Ashes Last? Storage and Nature