What are cremation ashes made of?

Cremated remains, also known as cremation ashes or even "cremains," is what you have left after the cremation process is complete. Let's tackle a common question:

What are cremation ashes made of?

Cremation ashes are made of crushed bone fragments. The cremation process applies extreme heat (1500-1800 degrees Fahrenheit) to the decedent's body, incinerating everything except the bones. Once the cremation chamber cools down, the bones are removed from the retort and pulverized.

The resulting material is sometimes called "ash" but in reality is more like a coarse, pebbly sand. You can read more in this article: What are cremated ashes like?

Cremation ashes chemical composition

The chemical composition for human remains is mostly calcium phosphate. Often there are other minerals, for instance the salts of potassium or sodium, and perhaps a small amount of carbon in the form of carbonate.

The exact composition will vary slightly with each person. This is due to things like genetics, diet, age, and other factors. After all, each person is unique!

Cremation process

In contemporary cremation, the body is typically placed in a simple cardboard casket, a full finished wood casket, or an alternative container according to the family's wishes. The body is then placed into the cremation chamber.

A high-powered furnace raises the temperature of the chamber to about 1500-1800 degrees. This completely incinerates the casket or container, the decedent's clothing, and everything else, leaving only bone matter.

After the cremation, it takes about 30-60 minutes for the cremation chamber and remains to cool down to a normal room temperature. The resulting bone matter is placed into simple machine that crushes the remains down to the final state. This is the coarse, sand-like material most people call cremation ashes.

Are there other things mixed in with the ashes?

Sometimes, yes. There can be other things mixed in with the cremation ashes. While all organic matter (organs, tissues, etc) along with the casket/box and the individual's clothing will be completely incinerated, there are a few additional items that crematory operators watch out for.

Fillings, surgical implants, and casket components (in other words, metal objects) are the only other things typically left after cremation. Pacemakers are always remove prior to cremation, because there is a chance that it might explode during the process. But things like surgical plates and other metal things will remain through the cremation process, as well as any nails, screws, or metal accents from the casket.

What to do with cremation ashes

There are many interesting and creative things that you can do with cremated remains. Here are twenty-seven. The list includes ideas such as using the remains for ink in a tattoo and shooting them off in fireworks.

But typically speaking, most families choose one of three options:

  • Bury the remains at a cemetery
  • Scatter the remains in a favorite outdoor location
  • Keep the remains at home in a beautiful cremation urn

For any of these purposes, you can place the cremation ashes into an urn that can be used for burial, for scattering, or to display at home. Shop our cremation urns here.