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How Long Can You Keep Ashes in an Urn?

Whether buried, scattered, or stored, cremated ashes provide the bereaved with several beautifully healing ways to say goodbye. The composition of ashes gives you flexibility in determining when to honor your loved one with an everlasting memorial; it could be today, next month, or several years from now. There’s no rush. However you choose to commit your departed loved one’s ashes, The Living Urn offers several high-quality urns for your special tribute.

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What Length of Time Can Ashes Be Kept in an Urn?

When it comes to storing ashes in an urn, there is no shelf life. Ashes can be housed permanently in an urn without any concern of degradation. As long as the urn is properly cared for, the ashes will remain intact for generations.

How Long Do Ashes Last?

It’s important to explore the process of cremation to gain a clearer understanding of how long ashes can last. It starts with the body being placed within a coffin or container, then within a cremation chamber. At this time, the body is subjected to extreme heat for about two to three hours. The intensity of the heat vaporizes the organic matter and incinerates the bones, breaking them down into fragments. Once the cremains have cooled, they are ground down to a much finer consistency with the help of a machine known as a cremulator. The cremains are reduced to a fine, sand-like powder known as ashes. Typically, ashes are gray, but they can also be white. For those who choose to commit ashes to a glass keepsake, the extreme heat utilized to infuse the ashes into the glass will burn off the carbon, which causes the ashes to have a brilliant white appearance.

Since cremains are mostly made up of refined bone fragments, the resulting ashes can last indefinitely. Bones contain a large amount of calcium, which gives them a similar composition to rock. This is why it’s possible to discover skeletal remains in tombs after several centuries. Just how long ashes will last depends on how they are handled. When sealed in an airtight, waterproof container, ashes have the best chance of enduring time.

Ashes Buried in the Ground

Many people choose to commit their departed loved one’s ashes to the earth. If the goal is to preserve the ashes for as long as possible, it’s best to add them to an urn designed to withstand the elements, such as marble, granite, or metal. It must be airtight and waterproof.

In some cases, cemeteries require the use of a burial vault. Typically made of concrete, burial vaults are a reinforced outer structure that shields the urn from the weight of the earth, offering protection against the elements. Burial vaults help to eliminate exposure to moisture, allowing the ashes to remain undisturbed for the most part. Of course, ashes can be buried in the ground without a burial vault or even an urn. In this instance, the ashes will degrade much faster as they interact directly with the soil.

Scattered Ashes

For many, the point of scattering ashes is to return their departed loved one to the natural elements. Whether on land or in water, scattered ashes can degrade quite quickly. To be clear, when we speak of degradation, what we really mean is the ashes’ transition away from its state of purity. Once the ashes become infused into nature, they quickly become one with the elements as they transform into parts of the soil or water. If the ashes are efficiently scattered with the help of wind and water, they begin to transition much faster than if they were deposited all together in one area. Freezing temperatures may slow the degradation process if ashes cannot be absorbed into water or soil.

How Long Do Urns Last?

The length of time an urn lasts depends on the material it’s made out of, as well as how it’s handled. Preserving ashes depends on limiting exposure to air and water. Several urns are designed to withstand the elements, such as metal, granite, or marble. Other popular materials for indoor urns include wood, bamboo, porcelain or ceramic, crystal, and glass. Also, there are biodegradable urns designed to break down over time, giving the bereaved a sustainable, environmentally friendly option when committing ashes to nature. If you prefer to scatter the ashes, scattering urns are designed to help disperse the ashes with ease and control.

Tips for Storing Ashes in an Urn Longer

With the right care, ashes can be housed in an urn indefinitely. Here are a few tips for helping you preserve your sacred ashes:


For many, the thought of having an urn close by can bring comfort and peace. Whether in the bedroom, living room, patio, study or somewhere else, it’s important that the urn is placed in a location where it can’t be accidentally knocked over or broken. Some good options include a mantle, cabinet, or pedestal.


Wherever you decide to display your urn, it’s important to ensure it is properly sealed and airtight. If you place it near a window, be sure to keep the urn away from direct sunlight.
For instance, urns made of wood can dry or crack over time when exposed to constant sunlight.


When cleaning your urn, be mindful to avoid water which can damage certain surface materials, such as ceramic or wood. Simply use a soft dry cloth to remove any dust or dirt that accumulates.


Wherever you store your urn, be mindful of fluctuations in temperature. Ceramic urns can crack when exposed to extreme cold. Changes in humidity can cause wood to swell as it absorbs moisture in the air.

The Living Urn specializes in unique, high-quality urns that tastefully honor the remarkable life of your lost loved one. Whether you prefer to permanently hold on to your loved one’s ashes or commit them to nature, we have an urn that will support your ideal memorial. Visit our store today to learn more!

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