How Long Does It Take To Cremate a Body? Full Answer

Cremation is one of the most popular ways for people to bid farewell to their loved ones. If you’re in the process of doing this for a dearly departed, you may wonder how long it takes. 

The cremation process can take a few weeks to complete. However, the actual cremation takes around 2 hours or more, depending on several factors. Also, a traditional cremation takes less time than a liquid cremation.

Although cremation is a relatively common way to pay respects to the dead, not many people truly understand the specifics of it. If you’re one of those people, read on to learn more about how long it takes to cremate a body — as well as the cremation process in general. 

Factors That Affect the Duration of the Cremation Process

Unlike traditional funeral services such as burial, you cannot obtain your loved ones’ remains immediately after cremation. Instead, you’ll have to spend several days waiting. So why is that? 

The actual cremation takes less than a day. What really drags the waiting period out is the administrative part of the process. 

Here are the things that can lengthen the time it takes to complete the cremation process.

  • Paperwork and authorization. For funeral services to perform cremation, consent is crucial. To establish that, it’s essential to complete paperwork such as relatives’ written permission, coroners’ authority, and death certificate.
  • Embalming. This isn’t required for cremation, but if the family wants the body to be embalmed for any reason, it would also prolong the cremation process. 
  • Funeral service. If the family chooses to have a service beforehand, it may take longer for the body to get cremated. 
  • Cremation service policies. Depending on the institution providing cremation services, they may have policies that could delay the cremation of the body. 
  • Preparation of the body. Before a body is cremated, it undergoes certain preparation procedures. For instance, removing jewelry, valuable items, and mechanical devices are essential pre-cremation steps
  • Queue. Of course, cremation services may be processing several bodies at a time, and this can likewise affect the length of the cremation process. It doesn’t help that in most countries, bodies are cremated individually rather than in groups. This makes sense, as most people would likely not want their loved one’s ashes to be mixed with that of others. 
  • Cooling. The remains need time to cool — around one to two hours. Then, the cremation service has to remove objects that haven’t or cannot burn (such as metals) so they can ground the remains and turn them into ashes. 
A coffin with a flower arrangement in a morgue with two burning candles and a cross

Factors That Affect the Duration of the Actual Cremation

The actual cremation process, where the body is reduced to ashes, can take a couple of hours on average. However, it can also take around one hour to sixteen hours, depending on several factors, such as the ones outlined below.

Type of Cremation 

There are two different types of cremation.

  • Direct cremation. The body doesn’t undergo embalming, funeral services, or other similar procedures before cremation. Instead, the body is burned into ashes using fire.
  • Liquid cremation/Alkaline hydrolysis. This is also known as green cremation and can take between two to sixteen hours. In this type of cremation, a solution of water and alkali is used to facilitate the body’s decomposition. 

When choosing the cremation type, make sure it’s legal in your area. Direct cremation is generally allowed, while alkaline hydrolysis may not legal be in certain states or countries. 

However, as you may have guessed from its alternative name “green cremation,” some prefer liquid cremation because it’s considered more environmentally friendly. Plus, it leaves more remains than direct cremation does. 

Cremation Equipment

The duration can vary from one cremation service to another because of the type of equipment they use. Certain services may have better equipment that lets them reach higher temperatures, allowing them to complete the procedure more quickly than their competitors.  


Aside from the equipment, the material that contains the body will also affect how long cremation takes place. Many choose cardboard coffins to speed up the cremation process. Whichever you choose, however, the container must be combustible, nontoxic, and sturdy. 

When Do You Receive Your Loved One’s Cremated Remains? 

You may receive your loved one’s cremated remains after one to two weeks. Certain factors may let you collect them before that period. In any case, only relatives or a funeral director are allowed to claim the ashes. 

If you cannot claim the remains, the cremation services may hold on to them for a couple of weeks. 

If the funeral director has them, they may keep them for up to five years, depending on state policies. 

What Happens if Cremated Remains Aren’t Claimed?

Some remains aren’t claimed and are left for cremation or funeral services. This usually happens to those who no longer have living relatives or whose relatives’ whereabouts are unknown. 

Unclaimed cremated remains are scattered over a garden of remembrance or memorial park. The cremation or funeral service will do so only after a certain period has lapsed. Relatives are given notice before this is done (if the relatives are known). 

Why Should You Opt for Cremation?

You have the right to decide how your loved one’s bodies should be handled upon their death. Therefore, you need to understand why you should opt for services like cremation. 

These are reasons why you should choose cremation. 

  • Eco-friendly. Cremation, especially alkaline hydrolysis, is environmentally friendly because it uses less land and energy than other procedures. It also has less carbon output. 
  • Memorabilia/Cremation jewelry. It’s possible to encase your loved ones’ remains in jewelry such as lockets. 
  • Personal ceremonies. Some people prefer to rest in their favorite places, like beside the sea. Spreading their ashes would allow them to do so.

The ones I’ve mentioned are just a few reasons people choose cremation. Ultimately, what you choose is up to you. The important thing is that your choice respects the deceased as well. 

Final Thoughts  

Days or weeks may pass before you receive a beloved’s cremated remains. The duration is influenced by several factors, like cremation policies and specific procedures. However, it may be worth the wait to have the chance of a proper and peaceful farewell. 

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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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