Combating Smells

It has been a while since I have written a blog entry here. I guess I have been super-busy and pre-occupied with other things. I wanted to share a story about a product we often used in the prep room of the funeral home. It was a cinnamon-scented air freshener. I do not know what the concoction was or the brand name, but I do know this air freshener was no typical kind that could be bought in a local store. It was specially made for areas like funeral homes. Why did we need it? Well typically, when a body was embalmed the natural smells of decay would disappear. Embalming, after all, stops natural decay and preserves a body. However, there were several times when a family would not want the body embalmed. Sometimes it was because of the expense. Sometimes it was for religious reasons. Sometimes it was because the body would soon be cremated and had no reason to be preserved. I remember one case when a family decided to forgo embalming because of the expense. Typically embalming was over $1,000 – and there is no law or rule that says you have to have a body embalmed. The only law that requires embalming is when a body is to be flown in an airplane to another location. Funeral homes may make you believe embalming is required, but it is not. It is, however, a very good idea to embalm if you are planning on having a funeral service where the body o the deceased is present. Even with a closed casket, a decaying body can emit horrific smells. So funeral directors often encourage embalming, not so much for the money, but more for the family’s peace of mind and grieving experience.

There were several times that I recall bodies not being embalmed. One that stands out is the story of a large fella who passed away unexpectedly and a bit young – probably he was in his late 40’s or early 50’s. e had been through a recent, nasty divorce, and his ex-wife was the primary family member involved in his funeral planning. We cannot confirm the reasons why she did not have him embalmed. It could have been due to the expense or it could have been some type of sick revenge tactic. I hope it was not the latter.

The man, whom we had to dress in a dark pin-stropped suit was beginning to decay quickly. There were no visible signs at first of decay, but the smell grew increasingly worse throughout the few days that we were “storing” him in the prep room before his funeral. He stunk. A lot. It got to the point where it was truly hard to be in the prep room due to his smell. That’s when I discovered the high-powered cinnamon air spray. It was in a generic looking, industrial size spray can. I sprayed it a ll around the prep room and it did eliminate the smell for about 15-20 minutes. At that time, a quick re-spray would buy us more time.

The funeral director pleaded with the family not have the body present in the room during the funeral. But they insisted. So we had to spray the room before, during, and after the viewing and funeral services. There is no doubt that the family smelled the decaying man. Of all of the horrible things a family has to go through after the death of a loved one, smelling their decaying body is not one to add to the list. That is why embalming is important. By the time the day arrived for the man;s burial, his hands and neck/chin areas were beginning to turn dark. Nature was running it’s course. Without the embalming, there was nothing more to be done – other than spray the area every few minutes with cinnamon spray.

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~ by claytonguiltner on October 13, 2008.

12 Responses to “Combating Smells”

  1. I love your blog! I am putting it on my meager blogroll.

    I have to deal with smells of pets. My mother has a hard time cleaning up after her cats – gonna try the cinnamon spray.

    How do you feel about candles?

    • I was thinking about using the cinnamon spray for cat smells also – not that mine smell, of course! but, better to be on the safe side. Did you ever locate a name for the spray he is talkinbg about?

  2. Hello, I can’t say that I know what a decaying body smells like. My opinion is that the woman not only was attempting to get even with her dead ex-husband but maybe even his family. Maybe the man was very tight with money when he was aliofe and this is her way of getting even. What you did I think was the right thing to do. Just because they ahd a very bitter divorce, it doesn’t mean she neaded to take it out on the people attending the event, if in fact that is what she was doing. Take care, SUe from Wilkes Barre, PA

  3. To get rid of bad odors have you tried burning candles, there are alot of good smelling candles out there Home interier makes good smelling candles. Just a thought.

    • Hi Glenda, I know your post is old, but I just wanted to add something here….if you have ever had the opportunity to catch a whiff of human decomposition, no Home Interiors candle in the WORLD will take that odor away, I promise you. It is an odor you will NEVER forget too. I’m sure the cinnamon spray this gentleman is referring to has a special chemical makeup that counteracts human decomposition odor.

  4. I am not sure what spray they use but glade makes one of the best smelling cinnamon sprays. Oust is also a good odor remover.

  5. Permission to use a photograph

    I would like to request image of air freshener from your site named http://funeralstories.wordpress.com/2008/10/13/combating-smells/ to be used in a Oxford Secondary Science Book 1, a textbook in English language. ISBN 9780199060627.
    This textbook has a limited budget and it would be appreciated if the picture is allowed to be used. It will be duly acknowledged in the said publication.

    If you agree then please send your particulars for acknowledgement purposes only.

    Please send us the hi-res images, suitable for high-end printing, in our publication with your explicit permission.

    Thanks and regards
    Batool Nasir | MANAGER Creative Services/Design

    Design (Education/Higher Education Academic and Trade)
    Oxford University Press
    No. 38, Sector 15, Korangi Industrial Area,
    Karachi-74900, Pakistan.
    Tel: 111-693673
    Fax: 5055071, 5055072

  6. I am sorry but when I read the recommendation for candles I about fell off my chair. Candles you stick around your house for beauty and a nice smell will not touch decomposition. They won’t even go very far inside the house which is why people buy so many of them. Have you ever seen a house with ONE candle?

    I love scented candles and have tons of them but can’t imagine lighting one to RID THE ROOM OF HUMAN DECOMPOSITION SMELL. That is like trying to make a dam at Niagara falls by tossing toothpicks at it. It’s just too small and not made to handle the job.

  7. Though I would add that the state of Missouri’s Dept of Health has some rules about bodies laying around. It is the 24-hour rule. A body has to be buried, embalmed or cremated within 24 hours of death. This is a very handy rule for funeral directors!

  8. Wow, this is amazing!

  9. when my husband passed i was asked how he died and when i said cancer they said he would have to be embalmed. also he had perforated bowel. i asked for his body to lay at home and it was..for 1 week before he was buried but i noticed he started to smell and there were darker patches onhis hands. i thought that embalming was supposed to stop this?

    • Embalming will only retard the onset of decomposition… The body will eventually start to decompose after time, depending how how strong of an arterial fluid you use. I’ve had bodies last a day after embalming, and i’ve seen them last years. If he was to be sitting around for a week before burial, the embalmer should have used a stronger chemical… but sometimes it doesn’t always cut it. Especially when you may have issued with the circulatory system due to the radiation and chemo drugs.
      Hope this helped. :)

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