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How to Open an Urn

Sharing Keepsake Urns

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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.

These videos should give you a pretty good idea about how to open an urn. If you have any further questions about how to open a particular cremation urn, please leave a comment below and we’ll be happy to help.

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14 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. how do you open the sorta golden looking metal box type box of ashes?

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. […] four standard screws. Removing the screws will allow access to the interior of the urn. We have a video showing how this is done, but the process is simple: remove the screws and the bottom panel, place the plastic bag holding […]

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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

  12. 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!


  13. 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

  14. 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.

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