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How to Sterilize Ashes without Fire: Aquamation “Water Cremation” Sterilization

If you’ve ever wondered how to sterilize ashes without flame cremation, alkaline hydrolysis is increasingly the answer. Also called “aquamation” (as in “water-cremation”) this is an innovative approach to the final disposition of animal and human remains. It uses only heated water, a gentle stream-like motion, and alkaline additives in a pressure vessel. No flames, no fumes, a smaller carbon footprint, and fewer toxins or harmful chemicals in the resulting remains. It has applications in agriculture, large and small veterinary spaces—and, in more and more states throughout the United States, funeral homes. As such, alkaline hydrolysis is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to flame cremation. 

How to Sterilize Ashes with Aquamation

Aquamation “cremation” is already available for animals in all fifty states. It’s expanding in many areas, where demand is growing for an alternative cremation method for environmentally minded people. People seek out  aquamation not just because it is greener than any of the conventional alternatives. It’s also a gentler process. It has a smaller carbon footprint, and the final byproducts and coproducts are sterilized and stripped of hazardous toxins. 

Aquamation produces an average of 25% more ashes than fire cremation, and the resulting ash is only bone. In contrast to the “chunky” carbonized chips that result from a fire cremation, aquamation “ashes” are cleaner, more consistent, and far finer. In contrast to traditional cremains, the aquamation remains are stripped of toxic elements like the synthetic fabrics, treated coffin wood, or bodily accumulated heavy metals that burn with a body during a fire cremation and can be concentrated in the resulting ashes.

Aquamation makes it possible to safely observe both older funereal traditions and newer folkways. For example, aquamation ashes are much safer (and easier to work with) when creating ink for memorial tattoo ink, or crafting certain reliquary objects.

Originally developed as a method of making plant food from animal carcasses, the nutrient-rich liquid retained from the aquamation process (material that would otherwise be burned up in the high heat fire of a flame cremation) can instead be used to fertilize plants.

Purpose-Built Autoclaves for Aquamation—and Every Industry’s—Unique Spec

Aquamation cremation creates only a quarter of the carbon footprint of conventional cremation. It can use as little as 1/12th as much energy—an important improvement over traditional processes’ environmental impact. And the liquid that results will itself grow a greener environment. But this isn’t a matter of stuffing bodies into any old steam autoclave. Alkaline hydrolysis requires a custom-built autoclave. In part, that’s to make the dimensions such that the deceased are allowed a dignified repose. But more importantly, the alkaline hydrolysis process uses harsh chemicals that necessitates 316 stainless steel plumbing throughout the steam autoclave. Although Priorclave has yet to build such a unit, our autoclaves are regularly used in research and veterinary labs where the remains of animals are sterilized (for safety reasons, rather than memorial).