Can You Open an Urn After Its Been Sealed?

by Dee Young December 16, 2022 4 min read

Can You Open an Urn After Its Been Sealed?

This is a question that is more common than you think. Sometimes, after the ceremony, family members decide they want to scatter the ashes, split the ashes up in keepsake urns, or make something with the ashes like memorial jewelry, etc. Either way, you need to figure out how to open your urn without damaging it or spilling the cremains. Here are some tips to help you complete the process:

What Happens If You Open An Urn?

How To Open Your Urn

Quick Guide Based On Material Of The Urn

Emotions that May Arise

How To Seek Professional Help In Opening An Urn

What Happens If You Open An Urn?

When you open an urn, know that you will most likely find the cremains inside a heavy-duty plastic bag. Sometimes though, cremains are stored loosely inside sealed urns. Be very gentle when opening the urn, in case the cremains are loose. You wouldn’t want to accidentally spill the cremains everywhere.

Be aware that cremains have the consistency of coarse sand. They can be stirred up by a fan blowing or an open window with a strong breeze. Be mindful of your environment to better avoid any mishaps. Cremains are safe to handle, but you can wear gloves to avoid making contact with the ashes.

If the urn has previously been sealed with silicone or an adhesive, opening it will make it less secure. You can use clear silicone or wax to reseal the lid after it’s been opened.

How To Open Your Urn

How you open an urn will depend on how it’s sealed and with what material.

Sealed Urns - This means the lid (secured or unsecured with threads/screws) has been sealed with an adhesive, silicone, or wax layer. First, you need to figure out what type of seal is holding the lid in place. You can contact the company you got the urn from, and they will be able to advise you on how to open the urn.

If for some reason you don’t know or can't contact the company, then start by looking for screws to remove. If there are no screws or after you’ve removed the screws and it is still sealed, apply a bit of pressure on the lid to see if it comes off. If it doesn’t, you can soak a cotton swab in fingernail polish remover or epoxy solvent and rub it along the sealed portion of the urn. You may have to repeat this process several times. Try wiggling the lid periodically and slowly pry the lid off. A flat head screwdriver may help, but be careful not to damage the urn.

Unsealed Urns - With unsealed urns, there is no adhesive, silicone, or wax seal around the lid. Usually, these urns are held shut by screws or by screwing the top on.

As stated above, some cremains are stored inside a plastic bag in the urn, while others are stored loosely in the urn. Be careful when opening the urn and make sure your work surface is solid and free of debris.

If there are screws, use a screwdriver or drill to remove them. Place the screws in a specific location together to avoid losing them. You might have to use force to open the urn. Note that most urns are very durable.

Quick Guide Based On Material Of The Urn

Wood Urn Bottom with Screws Opening Instructions 

  • Metal Urns usually have threaded lids, so you can just unscrew the top. Some metal urns might be sealed so use the cotton swab method described in the sealed urn paragraph above.
  • Wooden Urns usually have screws at the bottom, and you can remove the base to open.
  • Stone Urns usually have hidden screw-off plugs at the base of the urn. Normally, you can just twist the plugs by hand without any tools.
  • Traditional-shaped curved urns might have screw tops or be sealed with a gasket. Examine the top to see what to do.

Emotions that May Arise

Holding Hands Emotional Support

Opening an urn can be an emotional experience. You can always ask for help. If you do decide to do it yourself, know that it may be an emotional roller coaster of feelings. It can be hard to imagine the person who was once so vibrant with life, reduced to a few pounds of sand-like material.

You might feel despair, anger, or sadness. Dealing with grief can be hard. If you need help in that area, read about the 7 Stages of Grief.

How To Seek Professional Help In Opening An Urn

If you need to open the urn you can always ask for help from a friend. Most people want to support those going through a time of grief and may feel appreciative to have a specific job. However, if you can’t get the lid off yourself and can’t contact the company that made the urn, contact a crematorium. They have much more experience with urns. You can ask them to be very careful when opening it. Of course, this doesn’t mean the urn won’t be damaged.

You can also reach out to professionals at a funeral home. Do a quick google search of, “Crematories Near Me,” “Funeral Homes Near Me,” or “Cremation Society of (your location).” Cremation societies can help with all sorts of cremation questions, urns included. If you ordered a wooden urn from us at Lifesong Milestones and can’t seem to get the screws out of the bottom, feel free to call us at 419-445-4200 or email us at support@lifesongmilestones.com.

If you want to upgrade your urn to a customizable U.S.A.-made wooden urn, check out different styles here. All urns come with a heavy-duty plastic bag and zip tie. For more ideas on what to do with cremation ashes, check out 32 Ways To Memorialize A Lost Loved One or 35 Ways To Memorialize Your Pet.


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