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Use This Method to Make Carved Pumpkins Last Longer

Pumpkins have a pretty long shelf life for a fruit, but they too start to diminish over time. Carved pumpkins, in particular, can become rotten, smelly, and moldy very quickly, so it's important to know how to make pumpkins last. Follow these tips, and your carved pumpkins should last you all Halloween and potentially longer.


What’s the shelf life of a pumpkin anyway?

How to Make Carved Pumpkins Last Longer pumpkins on a bench

A fresh, intact pumpkin will last approximately 1 month at room temperature and 2-3 months stored in a dry, cool, and dark place. Gardening experts say the best time to go pumpkin picking is around two weeks before Halloween. This way, your pumpkin will still be nice and fresh for the holiday.

If the pumpkin has many scratches, bruises, or spots, it is likely to spoil more quickly. Therefore, it’s important to pick a healthy-looking gourd with few imperfections and firm (not spongy) skin. 

After carving, a pumpkin’s shelf life will diminish dramatically. You’ll have approximately 3-7 days before it rots. This happens because carving a pumpkin makes the gourd lose nearly all of its moisture, and all pumpkins consist of around 90% water.

How to Make Carved Pumpkins Last Longer many pumpkins

Hence, it’s a good idea to wait for the last day before Halloween before carving the pumpkin, otherwise, it may fall prey to mold and bugs even before the holiday. To reduce the chance of both problems, remember to scrape out all the insides completely, including all strings or seeds.

Once you’re done carving, consider these household tricks to prolong the life of your spooky jack-o’-lantern.

Give Your Pumpkin a Bleach Bath

A bleach bath is an effective way to preserve a pumpkin whether it’s whole or carved. Bleach is an antimicrobial and antifungal agent, so it will slow down the process of decomposition considerably.
How to Make Carved Pumpkins Last Longer woman carving a pumpkin

For this project, you’ll need a container that can fit the entire pumpkin (a bucket works well), 1 teaspoon of bleach, 1 gallon of water, and your pumpkin (whole or carved). Before you begin, put on a pair of protective gloves. Mix the water and bleach in the bucket, and then proceed to submerge the pumpkin in the bleach and water solution. Let the pumpkin soak for anywhere from 1-2 hours to a full night.

A Milder Alternative to Bleach

We understand that not everyone is a fan of bleach, as it’s not completely safe for children, pets, and other animals. If you prefer a milder version of the bleach bath, combine 1 tablespoon of dish soap and ¼ gallon of room-temperature water in a clean spray bottle. Shake to combine, then spritz pumpkin (both inside and out) with the mixture. Let dry completely before handling.

Use WD-40 to Extend the Shelf Life of a Carved Pumpkin

How to Make Carved Pumpkins Last Longer Carved Pumpkina

First, we must point out that this method only works if you’re using flameless LED candles and NOT regular candles, as WD-40 is flammable.

The method involves simply spraying WD-40 all over the surface of an uncarved pumpkin, and then wiping any excess liquid with a cloth. While this method is easier than the first two we listed and it does work, it may not be the best option if you want to keep the pumpkin outdoors.

A Few More Practical Tips to Consider:

  • Use flameless LED candles instead of real candles. Apart from being the safer choice, LED candles may also extend the pumpkin’s shelf life. Burning a candle inside the gourd exposes the pumpkin to heat. This will shorten the pumpkin’s life span to mere hours.
  • Instead of carving your pumpkin, paint it. This helps extend its shelf life considerably. For more no-carve ideas, go here - 14 No-Carve Pumpkin Ideas.
  • If you’re displaying the carved pumpkin outdoors, place it in a shaded and roofed area. Like candles, sunlight can make the gourd mushy, whereas rainfall can lead to mold.
  • If the weather is warm, keep the pumpkin cool before Halloween. This is especially important if you carved the pumpkin early this year.
  • Moisturizing is a good idea beyond your skin and nails. Rubbing petroleum jelly or vegetable oil all over the exposed parts of the pumpkin can seal the moisture and prevent it from shriveling. For double benefits, do this after a bleach bath.

H/T: RD.com, BHG.com, Real Simple, Almanac, Food52

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