How Do Morticians Put a Dead Body in a Casket? Explained

A mortician’s job is challenging and not for the faint of heart. Not only do they need to embalm and dress the dead, but they have to move the body around too. How do the morticians get the body into a casket before a funeral? 

Morticians put a dead body in a casket with a body lift or by hand. The body lift is a machine that uses straps to help lift the body, reducing the mortician’s work. When a body lift isn’t available, morticians can also move the body by hand. 

This article will tell you more about how a body lift works and the different types of body lifts. I will also explain how and when morticians move the bodies manually. I’ll also give some tips for dressing and positioning the body in the casket, so be sure to read until the very end! 

Putting a Body in a Casket With a Body Lift

Morticians’ common health and safety hazards include moving, lifting, and carrying corpses. Therefore, morticians try to move the bodies most safely and efficiently possible. 

The easiest and most efficient way for morticians to put the deceased in a casket is by using a body lift. Not only can a single person operate the lift, but it is also the least stressful on both bodies and the safest option as dead bodies are heavy and hard to maneuver. 

There are different body lifts that funeral homes will purchase depending on their budget and space. 

What Is a Body Lift?

A body lift is a piece of equipment that aids in lifting a dead body. The mortician will place straps around the deceased and hook them to the lift bars above the body to use the lift properly. 

There are typically four to five straps used in the process. Each belt goes around a different body part: 

  • Head 
  • Torso (right at the elbows
  • Hip / Groin area 
  • Calves / Ankles 

Some lifts also come with a head cradle or a fifth strap for extra security. 

Once the mortician places the straps around the body, the mortician hooks them to the bar and activates the lift. The mortician then moves the body over the casket and slowly lowers it until it is resting in the coffin. 

Motorized Body Lifts

The motorized body lift, such as The Ultimate 1000 Lift, is an excellent option for funeral homes that want an all-in-one solution for moving the deceased into the casket. These motorized lifts are easy to use, made of high-quality materials, and are customizable to the facility. 

The best part of the motorized body lift is the need for little physical labor. The mortician presses a button, and the lift does all of the hard work for them.

This lift raises the body off of the preparation table and follows a track across the room where the casket is. Afterward, the lift slowly lowers the body into the coffin, and the mortician removes the straps. 

Not only can the funeral home use a motorized lift to move a body, but they can also use these lifts to move a casket. Transporting a coffin can be difficult because of the combined weight of the casket itself and the body. However, using a motorized lift and putting the straps around the casket is quick and easy. 

To see an example of how to use one of these motorized lifts, you can check out the YouTube video below from Mortuary Lift Company: 

Hydraulic Body Lifts

Hydraulic body lifts are also available for morticians looking for a cheaper and more mobile option. The mortician hooks the straps around the body like the motorized lift. However, the lifting mechanism is different in a hydraulic lift. 

Instead of pushing a button and a motor doing the work, the mortician must use a crank to lift the body from the table. Though this is more work for the mortician, it is still easier than lifting the body by hand. 

After suspending the body, the mortician can wheel the lift over to the casket and slowly lower the body into the container. If their setup allows, they can also keep the lift in one place and move the coffin to the body. 

To see an example of how to place the straps on a body and how the hydraulic body lift system works, you can watch the YouTube video below from Kari the Mortician: 

Placing a Body Into a Casket Without a Lift

While the body lift is the easiest way to move deceased adults into a casket, there is not always one available. Morticians who work in a smaller funeral home without a lift or who don’t have a working lift on hand need to manually move the body into the casket. 

There are a couple of different ways to move a body manually. 

Using a Blanket or Sheet To Move a Body

One of the most popular methods is to move the body using a sheet or blanket. They place the body on top of the sheet and roll up the sides for ease of gripping. A few people then lift the body together and carefully slide the body into the casket. 

To see an example of this method, you can check out the YouTube video below: 

Moving One Half of the Body at a Time

If the mortician works alone with no assistance, they may have to move the body themselves. 

The easiest way to do this is to move one half at a time. Typically, they will move the casket next to the preparation table to reduce the distance the body has to travel. 

After that, they move the upper half of the body first, placing it into the casket from the preparation table. Then, the mortician moves the lower half until the entire body is in the coffin. 

Moving a Deceased Child

Because children are smaller in size and typically not as heavy, a single person can move a child’s body into a casket without the assistance of a lift or another person. They may choose to still wrap the body in a sheet or blanket when they pick them up to move them into the casket. 

Dressing the Deceased

Before placing the body in the casket, it is also up to the mortician to dress the deceased

Getting a dead body dressed is not easy and requires some maneuvering. It is also helpful to understand the physics behind an embalmed body and how it will move during the dressing process. 

Getting Pants on a Body

It is common for morticians to start dressing the body by putting on the pants. Here are the steps that they follow: 

  1. Put your arm through the leg of the pants from the ankle, reaching up to the beltline. The mortician will be wearing the pants on their arm and have their hand free on the other end of the pants. 
  2. Grab the foot of the deceased and pull the leg through the pant leg. Grabbing the foot allows the mortician to easily slide the pant leg onto the dead’s leg. 
  3. Repeat steps one and two on the other leg. At this point, both legs should be in the pants, and the pants should be stopping at the deceased’s upper thigh. 
  4. Lift the hips and pull up the pants. After lifting the hip, the mortician can pull the pants up past the buttocks. They may need to gain some leverage by placing the deceased’s ankle on their shoulder and pushing the leg up. 
  5. Repeat step four on the other side. Because the hips are the heaviest part of the body, it is easiest to do this part one hip at a time. 
  6. Buckle the pants and add a belt if needed. Once the pants are on the body, they can buckle and zip the pants and add a belt if necessary. 

Putting a Shirt on a Body

Shirts that open to the front are put on similarly to the pants. Here are the steps that morticians follow: 

  1. Put your arm through the sleeve from the wrist to the shoulder. After unbuttoning the shirt and the sleeves, the mortician reaches through the sleeve and has their hand come out by the shoulder. 
  2. Grab the opposite wrist of the deceased and pull through the sleeve. The mortician then grabs the wrist on the far side of the body (the deceased’s left wrist if the mortician is by their right arm) and pulls it through the sleeve, being sure to stop at the elbow. 
  3. Pull the shirt under the deceased to the other side of their body. The mortician will then put the free sleeve and the bottom of the shirt together to avoid tangling the shirt and pull it under the body towards them. They do this by gently rolling the body or bringing the shirt under the head and lifting the top part of the body. 
  4. Dress the other arm. Once the mortician pulls the shirt to their side of the body, they dress the other arm the same way as the first. 
  5. Pull the shirt up to the neck. After the shirt is on both arms, the mortician pulls it up to fully dress the body. 
  6. Button the shirt and add finishing touches. The mortician buttons the shirt up and adds a tie or other finishing touches. 

Undergarments and Shoes Are Optional for the Dead

Some families may choose to dress their loved ones fully, but undergarments and shoes are entirely optional for funeral viewings. 

No one will see the undergarments during the service, so they are usually not included in the ensemble unless necessary. Shoes are also not required as most people have viewings of only the top half of the body. 

Cutting Clothes To Fit the Body

It is very common for morticians to cut the deceased’s clothes to fit the body better. 

For example, if the person doesn’t fit well in their shirt or pants, the mortician cuts the clothes along the back and tucks or sews the garment around the body, so it appears as though they are fully dressed. 

This method is also great for more difficult clothes to put on a body, such as dresses. It is also common for morticians to place belts on the body using this method. 

Positioning the Deceased in a Casket

After dressing the body and moving it to the casket, they must adequately position it. Here are some tips for arranging a body in the coffin: 

  • The head should not crouch to the chest or have the chin sticking up towards the sky. 
  • The face should angle toward the right, straight towards the people approaching the casket instead of a profile view. 
  • Elbows should be close to the body and not stick out too far. 
  • Hands should be touching with the left hand over the right when possible and to the sides when necessary. 
  • Fingers should also be touching. 
  • Legs should be side by side and not crossed or wide apart. 

It is also important to note that children’s bodies get positioned slightly differently because of their body size. Children’s arms often rest to their sides, and their legs tend to fall slightly outward and apart. 

Final Thoughts

Morticians typically use a body lift to move a dead body into a casket because one person can operate them. They also significantly reduce the amount of labor needed to move the deceased. 

However, they can also move the body manually if needed by placing it on the sheet and moving one half at a time or by receiving help from another worker. 

Before moving the body, the mortician must dress the deceased appropriately for viewing. After moving the body, the mortician must carefully position the body to ensure the best experience for the family. 


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Alex Noel

Hi there! I'm Alex Noel and live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I started this website to share my experience. My goal is to provide Americans a more fulfilling goodbye.

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