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Substances which will, upon being dissolved, impart a definate color to the solvent. They are classified as to their capacity to permanently impart color to the tissues of the body into which the are injected.

Dyes (Coloring Agents)


  • Active (staining) dyes
  • Inactive (non-staining) dyes

Classifications of Dyes


Derived from hydrocarbons, these dyes are the most commonly used dyes because of their small molecular size which allows them to diffuse easily into the tissues, thus producing a uniformly distributed color. These colors range from pale amber yellow to orange to bright red.

A Blend of Synthetic Dyes


  • It must stain the tissues cells diffusely or possess no staining power at all depending on the requirements of the arterial fluid in which it is used.
  • It must be highly diffusive and light fast, that is resist fading due to the effects of light.
  • It must not be altered by pathological body products, not by arterial fluid ingredients.
  • It must maintain its original color under reasonable variations of arterial fluid and tissue pH.
  • It must possess a color comparable to that of the living tissue.

Characteristics of an Embalming Fluid Dye


When using active dyes, this artery is the best to be injected.



Active dyes used as cosmetic dyes that have the added advantage of giving a visible surface indication of fluid distribution. (example: eosin)

Tracer Dye


Accomplish no purpose other than to add color and eye appeal to the fluid. They do not produce staining effect of tissue; found in:

  • Cavity fluid
  • Pre/coinjection fluid
  • Preservative Jelly

Inactive Dyes (Non-Staining Dyes)


Actually dyes the tissue cells and aids in the restoration of a normal life-like color. These used in chemistry are divided into two varieties: natural and synthetic.

Active Dyes (Cosmetic Stains)


  • Cudbear
  • Carmine
  • Cochineal

Natural Dyes


A purplish red powder prepared from lichens by maceration in dilute ammonia and caustic soda (grows on rocks- rock algae).



An aluminum and calcium salt of carminic acid.



A red coloring matter consisting of the dried bodies ofthe femal insect codlus cacti- popular active dye. (Too expensive) Carminic dye same as ancient matter dye.



These dyes of alkali metal salts that have been reacted with coal tar compounds. They are mainly coal tar derivatives (90% synthetic). Because they are economical to use and are compatible, chemically, with other ingredients in arterial fluid and because they impart a permanent stain and even have some germicidial value, they are replacing natural dyes in embalming chemistry (It costs too much to make natural dyes).

Synthetic Dyes


  • Amaranth
  • Eosin
  • Ponceau
  • Erythrosine

Synthetic Dyes


Them member of the AZO family is a suspected human carcinogen. It is a coal tar dye that forms a dark red brown color in water but is only slightly soluble in alcohol. Dangerous!

  • Active Dye

Amaranth (Formally known as Red Dye #2)


Derived from bromine and is bright red in color. It is highly concentrated; just a few drops in the solution will give good results because it is highly diffusive. It is also sold as a red crystalline powder.

  • Popular and most common active dye

Eosin (Tetrabromofluorescin)


Red non-florescent dye obtained from napthlene, soluble in water and acid solutions to form a cherry red solution. It is classified as a napthol disulfonate compound.

  • Popular Inactive Dye



Known chemically as the sodium slat of ideosin. It is a brown powder that forms a cherry red solution in water. 

  • Popular Inactive Dye
  • Commonly used in preinjection



  • Croceine scarlet
  • Rhodamine
  • Rose begal
  • Acid fushsin
  • Toluidine red

Other Popular Active and Inactive Synthetic Dyes used in Embalming Chemistry


The ___ ____ selected for use in any given embalming fluid formulation will depend to a great extent on the pH of the solution.

Coloring Agents


Chemicals having the capability of displacing an unpleasant odor or altering an unpleasant odor so that it is converted to a more pleasant one. Their primary function is to enhance the odor of the embalming fluid.

Perfuming Materials (Masking agents, Deodorants)- Formally known as Reodorants


  • They are water soluble and derived from essential oils.
  • They attempt to mitigate (hide) the harsh odor of HCHO
  • Make no attempt to mask completely the fumes of HCHO.

Characteristics of Deodorants


You can find an abundance of deodorants in the _____ embalming fluids, especially _____ cavity fluid.



This class of chemical compounds usually selected not only for its covering power of harsh chemicals, but also because of its pleasant odor and antiseptic value. Actually, the use of this class of materials in embalming fluid is not intended to cover the harshnes of HCHO rather it is to present a more pleasing odor to the product.



Most of the deodorants used are those that are water soluble and are derived from essential oils. Most are ____ _____ which have been found to more successfully mitigate the irritating fumes associated with embalming formulations.

Floral Compounds


Chemicals for which there may be varying demands predicated upon the type of embalming, the environment, and the embalming fluid to be used. Because of special needs, embalmers may wish to increase greatly the concentration of one or more ingredients in a given embalming fluid.

Modifying Agents


  1. Humectants
  2. Buffers
  3. Water Conditioners

Three Types of Modifying Agents


Chemicals creating an increased capability for embalmed tissues to retain their moisture. Such would be added to dilute solutions when the body would predispose to dehydration (put in during last gallon). Sold both ways as arterial fluid and coinjection. While some of the moderate index fluids (20-24) have lanolin base humectants as an ingredient, most often humectants are in separate bottles.



These are Hypotonic.



Chemicals which effect a stabilization fo the acid-base balance within embalming solutions and in embalmed tissue. Mixed in fluid. (They only come premixed).



Chemicals added to the water used for diluting arterial embalming fluids when it is known that the water contains such minerals as would cause it to be classified as "hard water." Those embalmers with wells face the problem of hard water. Sold as separate formulation. Also anticoagulants. Depending on when used, these and anticoagulants can be pre-injected and/or co-injected. It is a matter of when they are injected  (same chemical).

Water Conditioners


These are chemical pairs which consist of a weak acid and the basic salt of that acid. These pairs neutralize any excess of either acid or alkali existing at any time in the tissues. Depending on the use of the chemical, these control the pH.



Are bottled and only sold separately and are used as pre-coinjections.

Water Conditioners


Chemicals used in water conditioners are the same as those used in ________. Both citrates and oxalates are rarely used today in embalming chemistry because of toxicity and instead EDTA is widely used in water softeners.



They function to control the actions of chemicals. Some of these materials are good solvents for the coloring materials; others tend to mitigate the bleaching effect of aldehyde action on tissue.


  • Firming
  • Drying
  • Speed released
  • Retaining moisture
  • Dyes in FS

Modifying Agents


  1. Buffers- used to control the acid/base balance of AFS and tissue.
  2. Humectants- Agents used to help control mositure-add and retain moisture in tissues.
  3. Inorganic salts- Agents that help control the osmotic qualities of AFS.
    1. The speed (fast or slow) in which the chemicals release their active ingredients
  4. Anticoagulants- fluids used to prevent coagulation (sequester blood clots from increasing, lubricate the vascular system, and attempt to break up or disperse clots).
  5. Water conditioners- (anticoagulants)- they treat the minerals in the water. Controlling the minerals in any kind of water is important. However, it is particularly important when using well water.

Chemical Solutions Modifying Agents That Control the Release of Chemicals to Obtain Satisfactory Results


Mixture of alkylbenzyldimethyl ammonium chlorides. It and several very similar mixtures are used in the embalming laboratory, in solutions for sterilization of instruments (cold sterilzation)- ky(sufractants).

Belzalknoium Chloride


A very mild antiseptic added to embalming fluid. It helps regulate the acid-base balance (a buffer pair).

Boric Acid


A red dye from the action of bromine on florescein. it is very commonly used in arterial fluids (active dye)- synthetic.



A solvent and disinfectant in embalming fluid. It is noted for its ability to dehydrate tissues. (alcohol)



A preservative found in embalming fluid. It is also a disinfectant. It reacts with proteins, causing them to become firm and more resistant to bacteria. Inhibits autolytic enzymes. It is a gas at room temperature.



40% HCHO solution by volume and 37% HCHO by weight.



A preservative found in embalming fluid. Unlike formaldehyde, contains two aldehyde groups on every molecule. For this reason, it is called a dialdehyde. Combines with proteins in such a way as to make them very resistant to attack by bacteria. It also inhibits the enzymes which cause autolysis (acid hydrolose). It is used in several arterial and cavity fluids. Unlike formaldehyde, this is LIQUID. (It was one of the three disinfectants on Apollo XI when it returned from the moon.



A modifying agent- a thick liquid often added to embalming fluids. Its purpose is to increase the solubility of various compounds, to delay the firming action of formaldehyde, and to serve as a humectant.

Glycerol (Glycerin)


An inorganic salt added to embalming fluid to help preserve the acid-base balance, to keep the blood from clotting and in some instances, for hypertonic effect. (Never put directly into the machine, predissolve first). Used as an anticoagulant.

Magnesium Sulfate


All embalming fluids will contain some of this since it is so closely associated with the manufacture of formalin. Some fluids contain extra of this because it stabilizes formalin and because it is both a solvent and a germicide. It is used to prevent formalin from forming paraformaldehyde.



A polymer of formaldehyde and exists as a solid. It is almost pure formaldehyde. It is insoluble, so it cannot be used in the embalming fluids. It is most commonly used in the powered preservative compositions such as hardening compounds and embalming powders.



An aromatic alcohol and is an excellent disinfectant. It penetrates tissues very well and bleaches tissue where required such as surface discolorations.



A calcium sulfate often found in hardening compounds as a filler that promotes hardening and absorbs moisture.

Plaster of Paris


The nitrate ions are converted by bacteria to nitrite ions which react with hemoglobin to form nitroso-hemoglobin giving the skin a reddish color.

Potassium Nitrate


Used to maintain the acid-base balance. Reduce graying action of formaldehyde action. (buffer pair)

Sodium bicarbonate and sodium chloride


Often used as a water conditioner and for its anticoagulant action in arterial fluids.

Sodium Citrate


An example of surfactant added to embalming fluids to increase penetrability.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate


An inorganic salt used to maintain the acid-base balance.

Sodium phosphate


An alkaline compound often found in arterial fluids to minimize graying action of formaldehyde yet will not deactivate it. It also inhibits blood clotting.

Sodium Tetraborate


A polyhydric alcohol that is used as a modifying agent as well as for its humectant qualities.