If your family member didn’t leave behind an end-of-life plan, you might not know what to do with their remains. You may have received a sealed urn from the Cremation Society of Philadelphia and set it aside while you pondered all of your options.

After researching and considering everything you can do with a person’s cremated remains, perhaps you have decided to divide the remains among loved ones, scatter the ashes at a significant location, or commission a piece of glasswork using a small portion of the cremation ashes.

All of these options require that you open your loved one’s urn. Here are some tips for having to complete this process.

How to Open an Urn

You may have many questions about how to open a sealed urn and what happens if you open an urn.

We will attempt to walk you through the process by giving you a guide based on the type of cremation urn you have in your possession.

Before we begin, some people ask, “is it illegal to open an urn?” We can assure you that it is perfectly legal to open an urn. Cremated remains are considered sterile. However, it is important to keep in mind that the urn does hold the final remains of a person, so try not to distance yourself from that reality when you handle the contents.

metal cremation urn

How to open a metal urn

Metal urns often have threaded lids, which means opening a metal cremation urn may be as easy as unscrewing the top. However, some metal urns are “sealed” to discourage them from being opened by accident.

How to unseal a metal urn

If the metal urn is sealed with wax or adhesive, try to open it by soaking a cotton swab in fingernail polish remover or an epoxy solvent. Repeatedly run the swab along the sealed portion of the urn. You might have to wiggle the lid several times or use a flathead screwdriver to open the urn.

opening cremation boxes

How to open cremation box

Some people choose to purchase a wooden cremation box to hold their loved one’s remains. Many of these boxes can be opened by removing several small screws from the bottom of the receptacle. The bottom panel may be lifted or slid out of the way to reveal the contents.


How to open an urn to scatter ashes

Some families want to open an urn because they wish to scatter their loved one’s cremated remains. We recommend that you figure out how to open the urn before the scattering ceremony takes place. The solemnity of the occasion may be disrupted if you have to search online “how to open a permanently sealed urn” while others are waiting.

You may also consider transferring the cremated remains from the urn to a scattering tube, which is designed to simplify the scattering process.

Other Considerations When Opening Cremated Remains

Most of the time, the cremated remains will be inside a heavy-duty plastic bag inside the receptacle. This makes transferring the remains easier for families.

You may feel uncomfortable when handling your loved one’s cremated remains. Consider asking for assistance from a friend if you wish to open your loved one’s urn to transfer the contents to another container.

Also, do not hesitate to reach out to the Philadelphia Cremation Society for assistance. You can talk with one of our knowledgeable staff members by calling (610) 557-8169, or you can peruse our blog to learn more about cremation and what to do with your loved one’s cremated remains.