How to Open an Urn

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In this article we are going to show you how to open an urn.

The one question we have been asked most over the years is “how do you open the urn?” Most of our cremation urn product pages will display (albeit at the bottom) information to the effect that the urn opens with 4 screws from the bottom. That is how most wood cremation urns are opened.

However, since many people don’t read all the way down to the bottom of the page, they don’t always see the information and would thus call us up and ask.

How to Open an Urn

To simplify the answer we made a short video demonstration on how to open an urn.

There are a few exceptions to this, of course, and most of the urns that are different the product page mention the way to put the ashes into the urn.

Some urns are designed with smaller openings and with others the the top is hinged. Some styles of cremation urns feature a lid, a gasket, a plug, a threaded lid, or other variations on these.

Here are some of the main urn openings:

Since making and posting this video years ago, it’s received thousands of views both on our cremation urn website and on our YouTube channel. We’ve made several more videos showing how to open and fill a variety of styles and designs of cremation urns.

Let’s take a look.

How to Open a Companion Urn

Most wooden companion urns open the same way as the standard urns, with a bottom-opening panel. You put the ashes into the urn the same way as well.

The only difference is that you can place each set of cremated remains into the urn in their separate plastic bags, or you can choose to combine or “commingle” the ashes into a single protective bag.

Most of our wood companion urns include a divider, which you can remove or keep in place as needed.

How to Open a Stone Urn

Stone urns, including marble, granite, onyx, and other types of materials, often open from the bottom with a threaded plug or stopper. Once you remove the plug to reveal the opening, you can pour the remains directly into the urn.

Typically your urn’s stopper or plug will have a gasket or some other feature to help it stay sealed and secure. If not, or if you are concerned about it, you can always put a bead of silicone caulk on the threads when you replace the gasket after filling the urn.

We do not recommend using glue or other heavy-duty sealants because there are the occasional rare circumstances where the family would like to access the remains. These circumstances include wanting to scatter or keep the ashes, share some among family members, choose a different urn, or replace it due to damage done to the urn. These incidents are very rare, but if you ever have the need to open an urn after it has been sealed you will appreciate when caulk is used as opposed to super glue.

How to Seal a Glass Cremation Urn

The question of how to open a glass cremation urn is pretty self explanatory; the top comes off. So the question most people have is How do I seal the lid on the urn after it is filled?

The video above will show you how to add a small bead of silicone to seal the urn. As explained above regarding the threaded stoppers in stone urns, we don’t recommend sealing a glass or ceramic urn with super glue or some other heavy-duty sealant. Silicone does the job, and you will be grateful if you ever needed to access the urn for any reason in the future.

How to Open and Use Biodegradable Cremation Urns

Biodegradable urns can be used in a variety of ways. Most people use them for ocean scattering, so that you can drop the urn directly into the ocean and not worry about a breeze sending the remains into everyone’s faces.

So water scattering urns are designed to float briefly while you say your goodbyes, then gracefully sink to the ocean floor to biodegrade and send your loved one’s ashes into the seven seas.

Many earth-conscious families also choose biodegradable urns for scattering when pouring out the remains. Sometimes this is at sea, other times into a river or lake, and still other times the scattering happens on a mountain, national forest, favorite park, or in your backyard.

Read more: Methods for Scattering Ashes

With a scattering urn like the “tube” urns in the video above, you have the option to bury or recycle the urn after use. This provides you with an attractive urn for the funeral, memorial service, or scattering ceremony, while minimizing the impact on the environment.

How to Open and Fill and Small Keepsake Urn

Keepsake urns are small memorials designed to hold just a portion of the cremated ashes. Many families choose to retain a small amount of the remains as a “keepsake” when burying or scattering the bulk of the ashes.

Each keepsake will open a little differently depending on the material and style. However, most open just like their full-size counterparts. For instance, most ceramic and metal vase-shaped urns have a lid, most stone urns have a stopper or gasket, etc.

The keepsake urn shown in the video, above, is a little different because the front features an intricate inlay scene, but the urn itself is only intended for a tiny portion of the remains. Thus the unique opening and the small vessel hidden behind the back panel.

Do I need to mail you the ashes to fill the urn?

As you can see from the video demonstrations above, it is not necessary to mail the ashes in order to fill the urn. When you order a cremation urn, we (or any other urn company) will send you the empty urn.

Simply open the urn and place the plastic bag of remains inside, then close it up again. The funeral director can do this for you, or you may want to do it yourself or ask a family member.

The only exception to this is when you have a specially-crafted memorial made from ashes. If the artist is going to incorporate the cremated remains into the urn or memorial itself, then they will require you to send the ashes (often just a portion) to them.

For instance, you can have the ashes turned into a diamond. In this case, the company will send you a “collection kit” and you would send a small portion of the remains to be used in the creation of the diamond.

Other than those specialty memorial products, no, you would not send the ashes into us or any other company to have the urn filled.

Read Next: How to Use a Temporary Urn

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27 thoughts on “How to Open an Urn”

  1. I would like to know how to open a ceramic/ginger jar type of urn. How do you unseal the top? Are the ashes in solid form in it? Thank you.

  2. Amy,
    A ceramic urn would have a sealant used to glue the lid on and can probably be removed with a little acetone, but we don’t deal in ceramic urns enough to know what would be best.
    I would suggest visiting a crematorium or local funeral home for advise on removing the lid.
    As far as the ashes go, they may be settled and packed but not in solid form. They will be able to be removed if that is what your goal is.

  3. Laura,
    Some of the brass box urns are a type of snap together. One of the ends can be removed by prying with a screw driver or butter knife. Be careful though, if you want to keep the urn. You won’t need to give it to much of a pry, too much will bend the outer part.

    Look for the end that has the most gap around all four sides, that should be the one to open. There may be a small hole marking the end as well.

  4. Is it generally accdepted to have two members ashes of the same family in a combined urn? If for instance a couple wants to be buried together? Thank You, Vince

  5. Hou can you dispouse aches….my husband said he will like to be dispose his aches in the see.What did I have to do and how did I go about..Did I need any permit

  6. Hi Ires,

    You do not need a permit to scatter ashes in the ocean. You can scatter on foot at the beach, or you use a boat to go out a little ways into the sea. I hope this helps!

  7. How do I open my Dad’s urn? His best friend made it down in Florida, made out of Cherry wood from a tree in his back yard. I believe it was glued so I could transport it back with me to Vermont. So now I want to carry out my Dad’s final wishes & spread his ashes but I can seem to break the seal.

  8. Hi Mike,

    Our instructions here are for standard factory-made urns. If you have a DIY urn, then it completely depends on how it was built and sealed. Sounds like this urn wasn’t closed with the standard screws, but with wood glue. Your best bet is following some instructions on separating wood glue joints, such as this one:

    I hope this helps!

  9. My mothers ashes are in a metal vase type urn i am trying to open it so her ashes can be scattered per her last wishes but can’t figure out how to break the seal. Any help would be appreciated

  10. Hi Kim,

    Contact the funeral home or crematorium that your family worked with. They should be able to help. They may have used a sealant to close the urn. I hope this helps!


  11. My husband has a standard bamboo urn your videos say I can access the ashes by taking the screws out from the bottom which I checked as there is 4 screws.

    when I do this what will I find are the ashes in a bag?? Is tis all I have to do is open the screws? I just don’t want to screw around with it and find out I cannot access his ashes nor do I want ashes to come falling out.
    It has been almost a year that I have kept him home and want to spread his ashes at an undisclosed place he loved very privately. Your comments will be very heart warming and will give me closure. Thank you

  12. Yes, the ashes will be in a bag inside the urn. Before you go to scatter, you may want to remove the screws and check so that you have what you need to scatter, for instance maybe a pair of scissors to cut the plastic if it is sealed.

  13. How do I open a wooden urn with no screws? Can’t seem to get into it and there are no screws on it but the front plate seems hard to get out without causing damage.

  14. Daniel Szczesniak

    Hi Krista,

    Hmm, sounds like your wood urn has a unique design. Typically, there is either a bottom opening panel that attaches with screws, or it is a top-opening urn with a hinged lid. Rarely there is a plug or gasket that removes to reveal a hole, into which the remains can be poured. Otherwise it sounds like the front plate could be covering the access point to the interior. Email us with some photos or video and we’ll try to help; otherwise the best option would be to take it in to a nearby funeral home and ask them if they can figure it out.

    Thank you!

  15. My best friend died and her sister sent me a tiny metal urn necklace with some of her cremated remains in it. It’s sealed and I feel like she should be in a necklace that’s prettier than this, is there anyway I can open this tiny necklace? I can’t go to the place her sister got them made because I live many states away.

  16. Daniel Szczesniak

    Hi Cyrstal, great question! Each jewelry piece is different, but usually when the remains are place inside it is sealed by a tiny screw with a gasket that you can simply unscrew. Even if it was sealed with some sort of sealant, you can often break the seal with some solid torque applied using a screwdriver. But unfortunately if that doesn’t work, there’s not much you can do at that point! You could, I suppose, attempt to drill a hole into it; but I’d advise taking it into a professional jeweler before trying that.
    Hope this helps!

  17. Lori Ann Bagley

    Once you put the lid on the ceramic glass one does it seal forever?
    I received one as a gift for my husband’s ashes and I was looking at it and I closed it before I have put him in there. For the life of me I cannot seem to open it is there a trick?

  18. Daniel Szczesniak

    Hi Lori,

    Thanks for asking! The glass urns – at least the ones we offer – have a glass lid that simply rests on top. You can (optionally) seal it with a bead of caulk, which is removable with a little bit of work at cutting through it. But if you simply set the lid on the urn and now it won’t open, it sounds to me like it is stuck. You might try spraying it with a glass cleaner and seeing if that “lubricates” it enough to loosen (disclaimer – we don’t know what the urn you actually have is like or is made from, so please use discretion). Hope this helps!

  19. My mother’s ashes are in a cultured marble block. I have opened the urn but cannot the remove the ashes through the opening. The tagged zip tied bag is too large. Can they ever be removed? If so, how would I dispose of the marble urn?

  20. Daniel Szczesniak

    Hi Kathie,

    Good question. The way to get the remains out will depend on how they put them in the urn in the first place. One of two methods is typically used:
    1) They could have placed the plastic bag inside the urn as a “liner”, then filled it and tied it off. If that’s the case, try to work the end of the bag out of the urn opening, then cut the zip tie. Pour out the remains until you can pull out the entire bag.
    2) They could have had a longer bag and the urn has a wide opening, and simply pushed the bag into the urn. You’ll still probably want to use the removal method I outlined above, but you may be able to work the entire (still-sealed) bag out of the opening. Be careful, as something inside the urn could snag and tear the bag.
    As for urn disposal, here is an article that covers that topic pretty well:

    Hope this helps!

  21. I would like to know how to open a temporary plastic urn box? I would hate to open it the wrong way and destroy it even though is it temporary? Also, how would you release ashes into the ocean and are there any laws?

  22. Daniel Szczesniak

    Hi Jess,

    The ashes are inside of a plastic bag within the plastic temporary urn, so they should be safe while you’re opening the temporary urn. There are usually folding tabs that secure the container, sometimes a snap or even velcro. Opening it will just depend on the way it was manufactured.

    As for releasing ashes in the ocean, here are the guidelines:

  23. My Mother in law bought 4 plots, one for her, her husband, my husband and me. Now I have a sister in law who is dying from cancer and wants to be buried in my spot. I never gave permission and was never asked… .What I am wondering is, is it possible for one urn and just the bag of remains of someone else be buried in one grave spot?

  24. Daniel Szczesniak

    Hi Bev,

    You’d need to talk to the cemetery about that, it will depend on the size of the burial plot (whether it’s a full-body-sized plot vs a smaller cremation plot) as well as the cemetery’s policies and how you would like to do the grave marker(s). But yes, multiple urns can be buried in one plot; I’ve seen many spouses have their urns buried with one above the other.

  25. Lynne Prestwood

    The type of urn we have is mosaic with the top sealed but the bottom has a plug with a groove like for a large screwdriver and was wondering how would we open it? Because of the plug on the bottom, it didn’t sit on the table without wobbling but I found something to hold it in place.

  26. Daniel Szczesniak

    Hi Lynne,

    You would want to contact the manufacturer (or the seller) to see how best to open the urn.

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