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How to Care for Burial Urns: Maintenance, Tips and Advice

One of the complex yet most important decisions, if not already made by a loved one, is to choose the urn you wish to keep their ashes safely within. There are many materials, customization, and engraving to choose from, such as glass, metal, wood, granite, and ceramic. But once you've chosen, customized, engraved, and have your loved one at home, thoughts are often turned to processing this time and grieving. Many of us may not have had the time to think: how do you care for a burial urn? What do you do to maintain urns? What are the best practices for keeping a loved one's urn clean and beautiful throughout the years? 

With those questions in mind, we've gathered expert tips and best practices for caring for burial urns to help answer your questions about urn care. 

Why Caring for an Urn Matters to So Many

Cleaning and caring for a loved one's urn is more than keeping it in good condition. For many, this is an extraordinary container that protects the ashes of someone they love while offering comfort to their family. Keeping it looking clean and dust-free is often a means of showing their loved one honor and respect.

However, how to keep an urn clean depends entirely on the material of the urn. 

Best Places for an Urn

One of the first and most essential steps of caring for your loved one's urn is deciding where it should be displayed. Having an urn that contains a loved one's ashes can be immensely comforting for many, so showing the urn within your home is a common choice. 

You can display the urn on a mantle on a shelf and surround it with photographs or flowers. When it comes to home placement, choose an area that is easy to reach and clean but a place that has little risk of knocking the urn over. 

Glass or Ceramic Urns

In general, for urns created from glass or ceramics, it is relatively easy to keep them looking new and beautiful by wiping them down once a week with a clean, dry, lint-free cloth. Generally, we recommend avoiding harsh chemical ceramic or glass cleaners as there's no guarantee of how the glass or ceramic will respond to the chemicals. Additionally, we recommend avoiding water as it could damage a ceramic urn's coating, or there's always a risk of the ceramics absorbing the water and beginning to break down the urn. 

Marble Urns

Marble is an undeniably beautiful stone, but it is also a soft, porous surface, meaning the stone has thousands of tiny holes in which moisture and cleaning solutions can become trapped. If your marble urn did not come with instructions for cleaning, or you are unsure if it has been treated or not (to seal the marble), your safest bet is warm water with a very tiny amount of very mild soap for a deep clean and ensure to rinse and dry after thoroughly. 

Just like ceramics and glass, a clean, lint-free soft cloth to wipe the urn down once a week should do the trick for regular maintenance. 

Wooden Urns

Wooden urns are an excellent choice for timeless designs and beautiful artistry that is sturdy and durable. Wooden urns can be made from hardwoods or softwoods like pink, cherry, oak, walnut, and mahogany. 

Wood, a natural material resistant to breakage, has a few weaknesses that can damage the urn over time. With a wooden urn, you will want to place it somewhere out of direct sunlight and ensure it is never exposed to moisture. 

To ensure a wooden urn keeps its beautiful luster and patina, you only need a cloth to wipe away dust. Wood can also dry out over time, and UV protective coatings can begin to wear. Every month or three, consider polishing the exterior with natural bee wax for wood for polishing to preserve the shine and inspect for any potential issues like cracks or chips. 

It's always best to avoid chemical and harsh cleaners as these can affect any protective finishes or break down the wood. 

Metal Urns

Metal urns can be created from steel, brass, bronze, copper, and many other types of metals. Different metals may call for different methods of maintenance and cleaning. If you are unsure what kind of metal your loved one's urn is made from, always test clean in an inconspicuous spot to see if there's any reaction beforehand. 

Like wooden urns, metal urns can resist damage and breakage but often require special care. They should not be displayed in direct sunlight either, as there is a chance the heat from the sun can begin to warp softer metals. 
Never use a damp cloth for cleaning a metal urn, as the water may cause the urn to rust. Always avoid any cleaners with harsh or abrasive ingredients, as they can cause scratches, and avoid chemicals, which can also cause oxidizing and possible damage. 

Suppose you know your loved one's metal urn is either brass, copper, bronze, stainless steel, or pewter. In that case, we always recommend looking up safe, natural ways to clean the specific metal to avoid any potential damage to your loved one's urn. 

Granite Urn

Granite is a remarkably tough and beautiful stone. Like most urn materials, a granite urn is a straightforward urn to care for. A dry, lint-free cloth wiped over the granite urn once a week to remove dust buildup should be all needed. For thicker dust buildup, you can use a damp cloth and a very mild soap if needed, then ensure that you thoroughly rinse and dry it afterward.

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