Preparation Room Management

This page contains the required reading text for this certificate course. After you have read the text proceed to the EXAMINATION link.




The location of the preparation room in the funeral home is very strategic to the ease of operation and traffic flow both by the licensed personnel and employees of the funeral home as well as the visiting general public.

The preparation room should be located in the funeral home in a way that should make it totally independent from the rest of the funeral home. It should be a unique isolated independent part of the funeral home. Older homes that have been converted into funeral homes sometimes find this type of location within its premises more difficult to obtain. However, thoughtful and careful planning, and the application of a creative construction contractor can make just about any funeral home floor plan into a practical facility that will yield the maximum independence to a functioning preparation room.

If a new funeral home is being built, it is the ideal opportunity to take full advantage of proper preparation room placement within or directly adjacent to the new facility. Remembering all the aspects of an independent preparation room and the strategy and chronology of the normal funeral process, the new funeral home will more than likely produce a very practical and efficient funeral home facility to be used in the memorialization services offered by that particular firm.  

There are three primary reasons why the preparation room should be an independent part of the funeral home. They are:

1). Entrances and exits

2). Odors, fumes and noises

3). Public health and safety.

These all relates to the funeral home’s preparation room independence and use.. The first reason we will examine will be the entrances and exits to the preparation room.




          The doors in and out of the preparation room should be situated so that the general public will not have access, or at least not have easy access to them. If one of the doors to the preparation room is situated so that the public has direct or immediate access, or if one of the doors is an outside door, it should be locked at all times, except when being used by the funeral home staff members. If possible, a buffer zone should be established. Sometimes this can be accomplished by putting a drape or a curtain over the doorway or the entire wall the door is situated on. This technique works especially well if the preparation room is a room off of another room and not only accessed from a hallway door.

If the preparation room doors are situated in a hallway that is regularly accessed by the general public, consideration should be given to relocating that particular door to another hallway or location where it is more likely the public cannot comfortably access it.

Other possibilities for creating a buffer zone may simply be to utilize space that is not accessed by the visiting general public, such as a flower delivery area, large storage room or garage. If the preparation room has two doors; one into the main or secondary hallway of the funeral home are that can be accessed by the general public, and one door into the garage; it may be wise to completely eliminate the door into the public hallway, especially if the prepared and/or casketed remains can be brought into the funeral home easily through a rear garage door or storage room door into the same hallway and/or chapel area.          

Immediate external or outside doors should be eliminated if at all possible, unless there is no other way to gain access to the preparation room. If it is possible, eliminate the external outside door to the preparation room and have access through a new door built to connect with the garage or other service entrance areas.

Doors to the preparation room should never be situated so that a human remains being brought into or out of the funeral home can be visually observed by the general public. This is not just a matter of professional practice but it is also protecting the privacy of the family being served as well as respecting the deceased person.  

If an external outside door is necessary, then  landscaping or privacy fences may be used as a buffer zone, so as to keep the general public from being visually exposed to the normal activities of funeral home traffic surrounding the arrival or exit of a remains to and from the funeral home facility.            

Windows in the preparation room should be completely eliminated unless the architecture of the funeral home makes that impossible. In a situation where windows cannot be eliminated, all glass should be fogged (opaque) or covered or painted over from the inside. When windows are painted on the outside, they may experience weathering over the years and permit visible access to someone passing by.

There are many products available which can be applied to glass that make it impossible to see through it. Paint is more likely to chip or peal giving some amount of limited visual access to the preparation room from someone passing by.

It is advisable not use window tinting film on preparation room windows. Window tinting film does not completely impair vision from the outside of the facility, especially when it is dark outside and the lights are on in the preparation room. Do not use drapes or curtains on the inside of the windows. Drapes or curtains absorb odors fumes and microorganisms. Most state laws rule out the use of curtains, drapes and carpet in the preparation room.

Some funeral homes have used venetian type blinds in preparation room windows. This generally works well to block visual access, but cleaning them regularly and maintaining them can become cumbersome.        




The normal procedures of a preparation room in any funeral home produce certain outputs. These outputs include odors associated with the normal preparation techniques applied to the dead human body. A body in advanced stages of decomposition will also contribute noticeably to this potential problem. Other outputs may include the fumes from the various chemicals and cosmetics used in the preparation, care and restoration of the deceased. Still, there may be noises from various equipment and instruments being used in or during the embalming operation. Sometime voices, or the conversation of the employees working, coming into or leaving the preparation room can be heard.

If the preparation room is independent enough of the rest of the funeral home, these outputs will not have any effect on the other operations and circumstances in the rest of the funeral home. Exhaust fans should be strong enough to eliminate odors and fumes adequately. They should be vented directly to the outside of the facility, and either through an exhaust stack or chimney to the top of the funeral home facility. If the preparation room is in the basement or lower level of the funeral home, it is usually not enough to exit the exhaust fan to the ground or foundation level of the facility. This is because someone walking by the facility or parking close to this area where the exhaust fan is vented could be exposed to the odors and fumes being eliminated from the preparation room. Not only could this be offensive to the visiting public, but it could also become a health hazard by the inhaling of fumes from embalming chemicals or any airborne pathogens being drawn out through the exhaust fan system. Be sure all exhaust fans are vented through an exhaust stack all the way to the roof line of the funeral home.

There are several common noises made in the preparation which can easily be prevented from disturbing the rest of the funeral home. Some of these include running water, the occasional “ping” on surgical instruments being used or put away, and the normal sounds of embalming equipment being used. These are all normal and necessary audio signals   that can emanate from any preparation room. Properly insulated walls, doors and floors and ceilings will eliminate most of these noise factors. A door sweep on the bottom of the doorways will also help prevent sounds from being heard in other areas of the funeral home.

As previously mentioned, the general location of the preparation room in the funeral home is probably the most important factor in the noise reduction process. If the preparation room is located in an adjacent area of the funeral home where the public could be on a regular basis such as a rest room, lounge area or the funeral merchandise selection room, then extra precautionary measures may need to be put in place to eliminate the exposure of the general public to odors, fumes and sound.

A test procedure that might help gauge necessary improvements would be to have some of the funeral home staff walk through adjacent areas I the funeral home while certain procedures are being accomplished in the preparation room. This will help identify what possible exposures to these outputs there actually is to the general public.            




The preparation room is where the procedure of disinfecting and preparing the human remains for final disposition takes place. Because of this, the room is exposed regularly to microorganisms, blood borne pathogens and other such contaminants. It is very important to make sure that the cleaning and sanitizing of equipment, instruments and other items used in the preparation room is exclusively contained within the preparation room itself. If this policy is violated the rest of the funeral home could be exposed the same contaminants found within the preparation room at any given time.

One way this can be accomplished is to never share mops, brooms, sponges, towels or other cleaning paraphernalia with other cleaning and housekeeping activities in the rest of the funeral home. The preparation room should have its own exclusive cleaning  and sanitizing equipment.   

There should always be as many smooth and glossy surfaces in the preparation room as possible. This not only makes cleaning and sanitizing more thorough, easier and quicker, but also deflects possible contaminants which could be more easily absorbed in to softer and more porous surfaces. If there are walls, surfaces and equipment that need to be painted, use only semi gloss and/or high gloss paints. There should not be any wood surfaces such as doors, door trim or base molding to remain unfinished or unpainted. They should either be painted with a semi or high gloss paint or finished with a gloss varnish or polyurethane. Throw rugs and fibrous content (grass styled) door mats should not be used or kept in the preparation room.

The preparation room should be equipped with trays or containers in which instruments and small equipment can be totally immersed in or soaked in so they can be sanitized. Preparation rooms should always have an adequate size covered waste can, properly labeled for bio hazardous waste, and a large hamper or container properly labeled for soiled laundry and linens.

Some funeral homes do not do any laundry and simply dispose of all soiled linens and absorbent materials exposed to the normal activity of the preparation and the deceased human body. This is probably the preferred way to handle such materials. If a funeral home elects to do their own in-house laundry, the washer and dryer should only be used for preparation room laundry and linens. Personal laundry or items used throughout the rest of the funeral home should not be washed or dried in those appliances once they have been used for preparation room laundry.

Some microorganisms can survive in very extreme temperatures and even in strong chemical detergents. Whenever any activity is accomplished in the preparation room it is always advisable to wear protective apparel and gloves as prescribed by OSHA requirements and published standards. All employees should be required to remove this type of protective clothing and gloves before exiting the preparation room. This practice eliminates as much transfer of microorganisms into another area of the funeral home as possible.

When considering health and safety of the various preparation room activities, it is just as important to analyze the potential problems that could be created outside of the preparation room by preparation room activity, as it is to consider the internal procedures and processes of the preparation room. Thinking through both sides of this equation will help keep the entire funeral home a safer  and healthier environment.            



Chapter Two



Preparation room organization is vitally important to keeping a clean and efficient room in which embalming operations can be performed. When a funeral home’s preparation room is organized properly, less time will be needed to be spent in the preparation room and better safety will be experienced during its use. There are three key areas of preparation room organization. They are:

1). Preparation Room Equipment

2). Preparation Room Instrumentation 

3). Preparation Room Supplies


First we will list necessary  inventories in these three areas which will enable the embalmer to work more efficiently.





The use and placement of the preparation room inventory is very important to having an efficient and safe work area. Understanding the primary positions of the equipment for an embalming procedure will help place that equipment properly in the room for  those working in the preparation room.

     The operating table or the table on which the body is place to be embalmed, should be central to the room. Since embalming is the process in which the primary disinfection and preparation of the body takes place, its location should be one of ease of access and functionality.  

The annual caseload of the funeral home may determine how many operating tables are necessary to have and maintain. If a funeral home’s caseload requires over one hundred human bodies to be embalmed annually, a second such table may be required. Some funeral homes eliminate this need for a second table by transferring embalmed bodies to dressing or reposing tables immediately after the embalming operation, so as to free the operating table for the next case. The embalmed body is then further prepared for disposition when needed.       

     The embalming chemical machine should be placed at the foot end of the table above and adjacent to the drainage sink or urinal that the operating table is drained into. This is done to avoid having the embalming machine’s hoses stretched across a travel or walking area of the preparation room. When the embalming operation is taking place, the embalmer may move about freely as needed in the room without climbing over or stooping to get under embalming machine supply hoses. This placement of the embalming chemical machine creates a more efficient and safe environment for the embalmer as he or she accomplishes the necessary procedures in the embalming room.         

     If you are not using a hydro-aspirator, which is attached to a cold water faucet adjacent to the water supply for the table at the foot end of operating table, your electronic or electric aspirating device should be next to or as close as possible to the embalming chemical  machine. The drench shower and eyewash station (for the embalmer’s safety and hygiene) should also be installed at or very near the same location as the embalming machine and aspirating devices. This is because the vast majority of all chemical spills or unexpected mis-haps will take place within a one to three feet from the area consisting of the embalming chemical machine, the operating table and the aspirating device.

          The following is a limited list of equipment that should be retained and maintained within the confines of the preparation room in the funeral home    



q Operating table

q Mortuary stretcher used for removals

q Reposing or dressing table

q Embalming chemical injection machine

q Aspirating device (Hydro or Electric)

q Positioning devices  (head blocks, arm/foot rests) 

q Eyewash station (for the embalmer’s safety)

q Various sponges, cleaning utensils and equipment

q Floor mop & bucket

q Drench shower (for the embalmer’s safety)

q Hair dryer, combs & brushes

q Covered waste containers

q Soiled linen hamper

q Instrument sanitizing tray

q Hosing holders and clamps

q Gravity bottle injection system

q Cosmetic brushes & applicators

q Artist spatulas

q Sharps disposal container

q Vinyl hosing for machines and aspirators





Instruments for the embalming operation should be as close to the embalmer as possible. Since the majority of the embalmer’s time is spent at the right hand side of the body being embalmed, the ideal position for instruments being used in the operation is either at the foot end of the table or directly behind him or her. If the instruments are kept in a drawer in a set of cabinets they should be in a plastic or porcelain tray like one that would use to hold silverware in a kitchen drawer. If a drawer is used to store and retrieve instruments in, it should be properly labeled on the outside that indicates that surgical and potentially sharp instruments are contained therein.

Another way to organize instrumentation is to hang them individually on the inside of a cabinet door in the preparation room. They may also be placed on a specially prepared pallet or smooth finish surface tray which has been attached to the wall closest to where the embalmer will be working during the procedures. If this method is employed, each instrument must be individually labeled on the pallet or tray. Small brass cup hooks may be used to individually secure or hang each instrument. The display surface holding such instrumentation must be smooth and easy to clean.

The individual instrument display method tends to be more sanitary, simply because the embalmer need only come in direct contact with the specific instruments needed to complete that particular embalming operation. After the operation is complete, and the instruments have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected they may be placed back in their proper places for storage.       



q Scalpel 

q Tweezers

q Aspirator

q Aneurysm hooks

q Vein drain tubes

q Angular drainage forceps

q Locking forceps

q Artery forceps

q Orifice packing forceps

q Surgical scissors

q Autopsy scissors

q Clothing scissors

q Trocars (various bore sizes)

q Various sized arterial injection tubes

q Manual needle injector

q Various sized hypodermic needles

q Various sizes of suturing needles




A preparation room should be properly supplied with the necessary products needed to do competent procedures in the room. These would include the necessary embalming chemicals, supplies and needs for unique or special cases, cosmetics and cleaning and/or maintenance supplies. Having the correct supplies is just as important as having the proper equipment in the preparation room.

It is also very important to have the proper supplies for the safety and hygiene of those working in the preparation room. Without these protective supplies, the risk of contamination is elevated and the safety of anyone working in the preparation room could be compromised.   

 Several supply items and smaller equipment for the preparation room may be placed together in usage groupings. An example of this would be keeping all of the cosmetics and cosmetic applicators and brushes together in one area.

Many preparation rooms make use of wall cabinets or enclosed shelving. Every cabinet and/or shelf should be properly and legibly labeled indicating what is to be stored in that specific area. Where chemicals or other supply items in the preparation room that would not normally be found outside of the preparation room are stored, there should be adequate labeling that cautions or warns of potential hazards or risks.

All containers that hold any type of supplies should be properly labeled. This would include refillable spray bottles, five gallon plastic drums and metal boxes or containers. Cardboard boxes should not be used as storage  containers in the preparation room. This is because cardboard is porous and can absorb and retain fluids and microorganisms.

For smaller and more compact supplies many funeral homes will utilize plastic drawer containers to sort and organize supplies that are regularly used in the preparation room. These drawer sets can be purchased from any store that sells home improvement and organizational items. Each drawer should be properly labeled indicating what is to be stored in that drawer.   

The following is a limited list of standard supplies that can and should be found in the average preparation room.


Arterial Fluids

q Arterial embalming chemicals

q Cosmetic dye for arterial fluid chemicals


Cavity Fluids & Autopsy Chemicals

q Cavity embalming chemicals

q Autopsy chemical treatment compound

q Topical embalming chemicals

q Deodorizing embalming powder


Cleaning Materials

q Disinfectant soap

q Spray topical disinfectant


Cosmetics & Restorative Art

q Assorted cosmetics & finishing powders

q Assorted cosmetic restorative waxes

q Various sized hypodermic needles

q Various sizes of suturing needles

q Cosmetic brushes & applicators

q Artist spatulas


Embalming Sundries

q Eyecaps

q Mouth/expression formers

q Autopsy skull clamps

q Trocar buttons/screws

q Viscera bags


Embalming Apparel

q Embalmer’s protective apparel

q Protective gloves

q Respirators / face masks & shields


Post Embalming Needs

q Disposable sheets for tables and stretchers

q Massage creams

q Various ligatures

q Cotton and/or cotton toweling

q Incision sealer powder

q Topical incision sealant

q Tissue filler chemical

q Tissue filler solvent

q Epoxy glue for eyes, incisions & lips

q Plastic shirt jackets

q Plastic coveralls

q Plastic stockings     

q Plastic sleeves

q Plastic unionalls


Hair Care Group 

q Hair dryer, combs & brushes

q Shampoo & Conditioner



Chapter Three


         Maintaining a clean safe environment in the preparation room is very important to the employees of the funeral home, but also the visiting public which more than likely will never experience or see the preparation room.

The amount of maintenance needed to maintain the room adequately is often based on the frequency in which the preparation room is used. A funeral home doing 20-30 embalming operations a year can be maintained fairly easily on an “as used” basis. However, the funeral home that does that many cases or more a month will need a more scheduled maintenance policy and procedure.

Maintaining the preparation room not only requires thorough and regular cleaning and sanitizing of the area, but also requires a regular inspection of the equipment used in the room. This will keep equipment functioning as it is expected to and when it needs to.

Preparation room equipment should be checked at a minimum of every two months. The following is a list of equipment inspections that will help keep preparation room down time to a minimum.

Operating Table : If it rolls, inspect and test the wheels. Clean, oil or lubricate them as needed. If the table adjusts in height, check to see that it is adjusting up and down smoothly. Check the drain out tube at the foot of the table and any hosing that is attached to it, making sure there are no obstructions and that it is clean. Periodically replace the drain hose if there is one.

Embalming Chemical Machine : Make sure that all of the switches and dials move properly and function as they are designed to. Periodically replace the hose line from the machine to the canula.

Aspiration Device : Make sure that all of the moving parts operate and function as they are designed to. Periodically replace the hose line used to attach the trocar.

Mortuary Stretchers and Dressing Tables : Check the wheels and all moving and elbow joints. Oil or lubricate such parts as needs. This avoids squeaks and lock ups. Make sure any stretcher covers are clean and free of rips or tears. 

The embalming instruments and other instrumentation should be inspected regularly to make sure they are all available (none are missing) and to make sure that they are not worn out or bent or broken. Scissors should be inspected for sharpness. 

Check the inventory of preparation room supplies regularly. A preparation room should always have a minimum of one month’s inventory of supplies. This allows time for various trade suppliers to get the ordered products and supplies to the funeral home before such supplies are exhausted. The previously supplied list in this course may be a reference tool for maintaining supply inventory.  

The overall cleanliness of the preparation should be procured on a regular basis. Certain regular cleaning maintenance tasks should be performed to keep the room clean and  prepared for use at any time.

The following is a limited non exhaustive list of general cleaning and regular maintenance activities that may be useful in keeping the preparation room a clean, safe environment and ready to be used;     


        Wet mop floors once a week minimally 

        Scrub drain sinks after each use

        Re-stock fluid and sundry shelves once each week

        Paint walls and other painted surfaces semi-annually (use semi gloss or gloss)

        Spray disinfect and wipe countertops and door handles daily, or after each use

        Empty trash cans daily or as needed

        Clean and rinse embalming machines after each use

        Embalming tables and dressing tables should be thoroughly cleaned immediately after the embalmed body has been transferred from them.


           This schedule may be added to or modified to fit the specific needs and caseload of a particular funeral home. The only things that should ever leave the preparation room is a well disinfected embalmed human remains, prepared for burial or cremation, and the properly contained waste and trash produced from the embalming and preparation procedures.

          All chemical and material spills should be thoroughly cleaned up immediately. If chemicals and other supplies are purchased in bulk quantities and dispensed into smaller containers which are easier for the embalmer to use, always wear proper protective equipment to accomplish this task. Always make sure the smaller containers are properly labeled.

          The embalmer should be equipped and supplied adequately so as to leave the preparation room in a more cleaner and sanitary conditioned than when they arrived to prepare and embalm the body.

Personal hygiene is primary to maintaining good health and public safety. Every preparation room should be equipped with a personal hand sink for the embalmer to exercise good cleanliness and personal hygiene. Other equipment for the embalmer’s personal health care should be a drench shower and an emergency eyewash station. The eyewash station should never be attached to a supply line that has the potential of producing hot water from it.    

           Remember, the preparation room is a unique independent part of the funeral home which when properly isolated to its purpose and function, will be the most efficient and produce the best results in the preparation capabilities of the funeral home in which it functions. The practice of good organization, efficiency and cleanliness in the preparation will make a vast difference in the overall productivity of the funeral home.





P.O. Box 750491    Dayton, Ohio   45475