How to Put Ashes Into an Urn (Opening, Closing, & Sealing)

How are the ashes put into the cremation urn?

Your loved one has been cremated, and you have picked out the urn. Now comes the honor of who places the cremated remains in the urn. If you have been given the distinction, how will it be accomplished?

Read on for insight on how to put your loved one's ashes into an urn.

How Do You Put Ashes Into an Urn?

As an aside, funeral homes or crematories will usually use the words “cremains” or “cremated remains” instead of “ashes.” But we will use each of these terms interchangeably, as the general public tends to use "ashes" to refer to cremated remains.

Option 1: Ask the Funeral Home or Crematorium

The funeral home or crematorium you have been dealing with should automatically place the cremated remains in the urn of your choice if you have purchased the urn through them.

If you didn’t purchase an urn, your loved one would be placed in a temporary container. This container varies from funeral home to funeral home. It might be a sturdy cardboard box or a PVC snap lid canister.

The crematory attendant will place your loved one’s cremains in a heavy-duty plastic bag before being put in a temporary container or urn.

If you purchased an urn from another supplier, you could ask the funeral director to place your loved one in it. They may charge a small fee for accepting an “outside” urn and will have you sign a waiver. The waiver states that you didn’t purchase the urn through them, and the funeral home will not take responsibility for it.

Find the perfect urn: The Five-Minute Guide to Choosing a Cremation Urn

Option 2: Transfer the Ashes Into the Urn Yourself

You can always place the cremated remains in the urn yourself. Some people just don’t like the thought of “touching” them.

You can rest assured that your loved one’s remains are enclosed in a heavy-duty plastic bag, securely sealed with a zip tie. The only way you will touch any cremated remains is if you cut open the bag.

Attached to the zip tie will be a disc with a number and name of the funeral home/crematory. This numbered disc is your loved one’s ID. They are the only one with that number from the facility. It is unique unto those specific cremated remains.

Step One: Set Up Your Workspace

Before beginning the transfer, make sure you have a stable workspace. Ideally, this would be a counter or tabletop. 

Place a newspaper over the top of the workspace to catch any cremains that may fall. This is necessary only if you are going to open the bag.

Reasons for opening the plastic bag protecting the ashes may include:

Step Two: Open the Urn

You'll need to open both the temporary urn and the new permanent urn. The temporary urn will typically have a folded, clasp, or snap closure. The way it opens should be fairly evident.

For the permanent urn, each type opens a little differently. Vase-shaped urns have a lid that either rests on top or screws on. Rectangular or box-shaped urns often open from the bottom, with a gasket or a removeable base.

Learn more (and see videos) of how to open an urn here.

Step Three (A): Transfer the Bag

You can pick up the bag and transfer the cremated remains into the other urn, especially if the urn has a large opening. An urn that has a larger opening is usually accessed from the bottom. This urn would typically be a wooden urn where screws hold on the entire base.

Again, there is no need to open the bag. Simply transfer the cremated remains from the temporary urn to the new urn.

Step Three (B): Transferring Ashes from One Bag to Another

If the urn’s opening is smaller, or if you are dividing the remains, this is when it can get trickier. The urn you purchased will come with a plastic bag and a twist tie. I would recommend using a zip tie, it is more secure.

  • Take the empty bag and place it in the urn. Make sure the empty bag is wide open.
  • Cut open the bag containing the cremated remains. Make sure to keep the disc safe; you will be putting it on the new bag.
  • If you have a large funnel, place it in the new bag’s opening (That you have placed inside the new urn.) And pour the cremated remains through the funnel. Place the disc on the new zip tie and seal up the bag.
  • If you don’t have a large funnel, carefully pour the opened bag of cremated remains into the new bag (That you have been placed inside the new urn). Place the disc on the new zip tie and seal up the bag.

If you accidentally spill some cremains on the workspace, simply fold up the newspaper that you placed down and pour the cremated remains into the urn.

Step Four: Closing & Sealing the Urn

Close the urn in reverse of how you opened it. Since the remains are secured in the plastic bag, you do not need to seal the urn.

If you chose to pour the remains directly into the urn, perhaps in a ceramic or glass urn, then you may want to seal the lid. Simply place a bead of household caulk around the edge of the lid, then set the lid on top.

We do not recommend glue; if you ever had reason in the future to open the urn, caulk is fairly simple to remove, while glue and other sealants are permanent.

You'll often pour the ashes directly into stone urns as well. These do not need sealant, as they are typically closed with a stopper that has a rubber gasket or o-ring.

Option 3: Ask a Family Member or Friend

You can ask a family member or a trusted friend to handle the cremated remains. Have them follow the directions above.

Placing the cremated remains of anyone into an urn is an honor. You should always treat the cremains with the utmost respect. You need to remember that this is someone’s loved one.

What to Do with the Temporary Urn

Now that you have transferred the cremated remains, you will need to get rid of the  temporary urn.

If you have taken your loved one’s cremains to a funeral home for transfer, the funeral home will throw the empty container away. Legally, no one can reuse these containers. They will simply place the empty container in the trash.

When you place the cremated remains yourself, just throw the used container away. The temporary urn can’t be used for anything else.

Read more here: What Do You Do With the Empty Urn?

Where to Place the Urn

Your loved one’s urn is now in your possession. What’s next?

You need to decide what to do with the cremated remains. You have a few choices:

(Tap any of those terms to learn more.)

Honoring your loved one’s wishes is essential and will give you peace of mind as you finalize their resting place. If you're still looking for a cremation urn, here are our 12 Best-Selling Urns for Ashes to remember and memorialize your loved one.