How To Transfer or Portion Cremated Remains
After you receive cremated remains or “ashes,” you may decide to move them to a display urn or take a portion for scattering or use in another small keepsake item or jewelry.
For some people, it can be an emotional task, so consider asking a friend or family member to help either in person or by phone or video call.
What to expect
Cremated remains are actually not “ashes” at all, but bone fragments processed to resemble white or gray dusty sand. They may be heavier and coarser than you expect, but are not toxic. Each pound prior to cremation is equal to a cubic inch of “ashes.” Therefore, a 190 pound person requires an urn that has the capacity of 190 cubic inches. To visualize the size, think about a five pound bag of sugar.
Get materials ready
To prepare to transfer the cremated remains, you will want to gather these materials:
- Newspaper or a towel
- A funnel or piece of paper wrapped into a cone shape
- Glue (if you plan to seal the display urn)
- A plastic bag (if you are planning to use a new one)
- Temporary urn and new urn and/or keepsake item
- A mask and gloves
A mask will keep you from breathing in small particles and gloves will keep your hands clean. Wearing either or both is optional.
If you plan to move cremated remains into a keepsake item or want to keep a small portion separate for scattering or other purposes, this is a good time to do this with most of the same preparation and tools. Using a small piece of paper curled into a cone can be used as a funnel for smaller amounts of remains.
Choose your method for transfer
You have three options for transferring the cremated remains into a display urn:
- You can place the entire plastic bag into the new urn if the opening is wide enough.
- You can cut a small hole in a corner of the plastic bag and pour the contents directly into the display urn.
- You can place another clean plastic bag into the new urn, then pour the remains into that bag.
Always keep the metal tag with the remains so that identification never becomes an issue. Additionally, a sticker placed on the bottom of the urn or a piece of paper placed inside with the decedent’s name and date of death can be an even better way of making sure the remains are easily identified in the future.
How to transfer the remains, step-by-step
- Choose your method for transfer from the three options listed above. Note: A plastic bag (either the original or a new one) will keep “ashes” from spilling if the urn is ever tipped over, falls or breaks.
- Put the display urn on the newspaper or towel and all your tools and temporary urn in close reach.
- If you are going to wear a mask and gloves, put them on.
- Open the temporary urn and remove the plastic bag and attached metal tag.
- If you are removing the ashes from the bag, cut a hole in a corner and slowly fill the display urn. You can also place a bag inside and fill it, using paper or a funnel if needed.
- As we noted above, make sure to keep the identification tag with the remains.
- If any cremated remains have spilled during the transfer, scoop them from the paper or towel underneath and add to the urn.
- If you plan to seal the new urn, first wipe the lid with a damp cloth and dry. Then place several drops of glue or “super glue” on the rim of the base of the urn and the lid. Screw the lid on and wipe off any excess dirt and glue. This method should work for most ceramic and wood urns, but check the instructions on your chosen glue bottle.
Transferring your loved one’s ashes can be an emotional experience, but studies have shown that having an object to remind you of your loved one can also be healing.
Photo by Mehdi Babousan