Thiel embalming, anyone?

Charles 15 Comments

Professor Walther Thiel, an Austrian, developed an embalming process for medical cadavers. His process requires much less formaldehyde than conventional embalming fluids and, also, produces a much more ‘lifelike’ body with none of the hardness and stiffness associated with conventional embalming. Medical people are very keen on it — those who know about it. It’s only been around since 1992 and, because the technique is described in German, it hasn’t made itself particularly well-known. 

Soft embalming is a technique which relies on a mixture of salt compounds and very low amounts of volatile formaldehyde and formalin to effect fixation of tissue with a number of unique properties. Cadavers preserved with the Thiel Method have no detectable odor, a lifelike flexibility of body parts, excellent color preservation of muscle, viscera, and vasculature, and superior antimicrobial preservation properties. [Source]

They’re using it at the University of Dundee, the first place in the UK to opt for it. They’re doing so in anticipation of EU laws restricting the use of formalin, which is reckoned a carcinogen. They are delighted by the results. 

We wonder how many embalmers are aware of Thiel embalming. In terms of presentation alone, it would seem to do a much better job than the conventional method. 

Do have a look at the video on the Univ Dundee site, which shows a Thiel-embalmed cadaver, and see for yourself how much better it is. 

If it’s safer, too, there would seem to be a strong argument for it.

But would it work as well if the embalming mixture is used in the far lower concentrations required by the funeral industry. 

What do we know? If you know anything, do tell us. 

(Apologies to born-again anti-embalmers.)


  1. Charles

    Well, I don’t know, Ru, I was acknowledging a school of thought at the same time as speaking in an ecumenical, detached sort of voice as I sit on the fence and watch the world go by in a idle birdwatcherly sort of way.

    I’m not exactly sure what your question asked. (I can be very dim.)

  2. Charles

    Well Charles, I think that’s pretty cool! I’m astounded by the difference in flexibility. For those who want to be embalmed this is a great option. Just one question though; why does the concentration have to be lower for the funeral industry if it is less harmful than the normal stuff?

  3. Charles

    ‘for those who want to be embalmed’…. there are a few things that my brain can’t process in there….
    the first being that to consider embalming I need to consider being dead….
    the second being the choice element inferred by ‘wanting’ to be embalmed….
    but if I’m dead….
    No, can’t do it at the moment!

  4. Charles

    Not as dim as me Charles. Were you meaning me, because I’ve always considered myself a rigorous dyed in the wool anti embalming ( not anti embalmer) kind of guy. I wondered whether there were any new converts I had missed.

  5. Charles
    Mark Elliott & Ann.L

    I Embalm most days in my own funeral home and for another funeral director and I use a fantastic product called Genelyn it does not contain Methanol and therefore the deceased remain soft to the touch and remain a good colour. Traditional Embalmin Fluids sometimes cause a greying around the tissues of the face and then cosmetics need to be applied. Medical Schools etc tend to use very strong mixtures for Embalming of deceased as they wish to preserve them for at least 3 years but in the funeral industry we are looking to preserve the person up until the time of the funeral service to stop the changes that take place after death. Genelyn is a Australian product and is excellent the results are fantastic and the families are pleased when they visit the chapel of rest.

  6. Charles
    Mark Elliott & Ann.L

    Genelyn has also produced an anatomical Embalming Product which is now being used in 5 universities in the UK as well as in Europe. The effect is the same is leaves the body pliable but for dissection purposes the organs remain the corrct colour which is a break through for universities. If anyone is interested or would like any further information for everyday embalming or for medical purposes please give Patricia a call at EEP Embalming products who produce this fantastic product for the funeral industry. and you can view the range etc which is great.

  7. Charles
    Mark Elliott & Ann.L

    Thiel Embalming is only for the medical cadavers and is very expensive to do and is not suitable for the funeral industry.

  8. Charles

    1. How long does it take to produce a Thiel embalmed cadaver?
    2. How long can the cadaver be used?
    3. What steps are required to maintain the cadaver in a useable state e.g. wetting down tissue or submersion in a tank of fluid?

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