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What is Aquamation?

Traditionally, people in the midst of arranging a funeral have had only two choices: cremation or burial. The increasingly popular alternative of environmentally friendly deathcare has presented a third option: Aquamation, a completely flameless cremation with none of the negative environmental side effects.

The process is based on alkaline hydrolysis where the body is placed in a pressure vessel that is then filled with a mixture of water and potassium hydroxide, and heated to a temperature of approximately 160 °C (320 °F) for between 4 to 6 hours. The process is performed at an elevated pressure, which prevents boiling.

The Aquamation process is performed after any viewing or or visitation services the family wishes to have, allowing for a full traditional ceremony if desired. When it is time for the process to begin, the individual body is respectfully placed in a stainless steel vessel. Alkali is then added to the process based on individual characteristics (weight, sex, embalming status), and then the vessel fills with water.

Alkali is a basic, ionic salt that dissolves within water, following this the solution of 95% water and 5% alkali is heated to 200-300°F, and gently circulated for the entire duration of the process.

Unlike flame cremation, a box, shroud, or casket is not used. These materials will not break down in the aquamation process, nor will clothing unless it is protein-based like silk or wool.

Ultimately, all material is broken down to the smallest building blocks and presented in the form of dried cremated remains. The ashes from a flame cremation are primarily the mineral remains from the bone, along with some ash from the cremation box or casket, clothing, and anything else. Whereas remains from Aquamation can be lighter in color and texture, anywhere from light grey to beige. These remains can be kept in an urn, same as traditional cremation.

If you’d like to learn more about what aquamation options are available for yourself or a loved one, give us a call and we will let you know.

Article Submitted by:

Tim Dinan

Cook Family Funeral Home and Cremation Service, and Hillcrest Cemetery


Serving Bainbridge Island, Kitsap County, and the Surrounding Puget Sound Region

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