How To: Preserve a Pumpkin
Keep your pumpkins looking plump and porch-perfect throughout fall with these proven preservation techniques.
The scariest sight on your porch this Halloween might not be the ghoulish grin on your Jack-o’-Lantern’s face, but rather the rot, mold, and mildew—and the creepy crawlers—that inevitably invade. Like most produce, whole pumpkins decompose naturally with exposure to air, water, and pests, and the openings in carved pumpkins cause them to decay even more quickly.
Luckily, anyone who is eager to make his or her porch decoration last through Thanksgiving—or even just till the neighborhood trick-or-treaters arrive—has the means to do so already at home. You can slow its decay, maintain its looks, and prolong its life with one or more of these methods for how to preserve a pumpkin.
Preserving a Carved Pumpkin
Method 1: Remove the Pulp
A pile of pulp in a carved pumpkin is an invitation for fungi, bacteria, and fruit flies and other pests to enter through the openings and feed on your Jack-o’-Lantern. Prevent your pumpkin from turning into a rot-, mold- and pest-riddled mess by scouring the pumpkin walls and base with a spoon to loosen the fibers and seeds, then turning the pumpkin upside down over a large bowl and dumping out the contents. If you don’t have any plans to eat the pumpkin pulp after carving, you can just as easily siphon out the pumpkin guts with a wet vac. But don’t let that pumpkin pulp go to waste—it makes excellent food for your garden later if you drop it into the indoor composting bin or backyard pile.
Method 2: Use Lubricant
The water- and freeze-proof alkanes (hydrocarbons) in WD-40 can help keep your carved pumpkin shiny and hydrated while warding off fungi, frost, and even creepy crawlers. Put the superhero solvent to use by liberally spraying the entire exterior (including the inner grooves of the carved openings) of a gutted and carved pumpkin with WD-40. Wipe off any excess lubricant dripping from the surface with an old rag, then let the pumpkin dry for at least 24 hours before placing any candles inside.
Keep in mind that WD-40 is considered flammable, so avoid spraying it on a pumpkin while a lit candle burns inside it—that’s a house fire waiting to happen.
Method 3: Apply DIY Anti-Fungal Spray
Extreme weather is the enemy of carved pumpkins, causing it to decay at a faster-than-average rate. If temperatures in your area are above 70 degrees Fahrenheit or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, don’t leave them out on the porch overnight. Every night, dry the outside of the pumpkins with an old rag, then lightly spray the inside of the pumpkin with this homemade anti-fungal solution: one tablespoon of peppermint castile soap and four cups of plain water shaken up in a plastic spray bottle. Tie up the soap-soaked pumpkin in a trash bag and then store the bag in your fridge overnight (a secondary fridge in the basement or garage is a great option for when your main fridge is full). When you retrieve your pumpkin in the morning, it will look as fresh-faced as the day you brought it home.
Preserving an Uncarved Pumpkin
Method 1: Use Bleach
Bleach can scare off fungi and bacteria from your uncarved pumpkin before they transform into mold and rot. Dilute one tablespoon of bleach in four cups of water in a large bucket, then soak the pumpkin in the bleach solution for 20 minutes before removing and drying the pumpkin. If you decorated your uncarved pumpkin, skip the soaking and enlist a can of bleach-based spray to spray the entire surface of the pumpkin before letting it dry.
Method 2: Use Floor Wax
When you’re not putting it to use in the interior to lend a long-lasting luster to floors, enlist leftover acrylic liquid floor wax to protect your uncarved pumpkins from mold and rot. Apply a tablespoon of floor wax to a water-dampened rag, then wipe down the entire surface of your uncarved pumpkin, leaving behind a thin film of wax. When the wax cures on the pumpkin, it will act as a barrier to moisture that prevents the growth of mold and keeps your pumpkin hydrated. Even better? The wax will lend your pumpkin an attractive sheen that lasts four weeks or longer.