Halloween pumpkin carving is a fun way to get in the mood for the holiday. If you’ve ever spent hours carving your Halloween pumpkin only to have it cave in a few days later, you know how frustrating that can be. Unfortunately, once you break the pumpkin’s skin, it begins to rot.
How long do carved pumpkins last? Once you cut into it, it will typically hold up for three to five days — or up to two weeks if you live in a colder climate — before it starts to wilt. Don’t let your masterpiece wither away before your trick-or-treaters arrive. Check out these tips on how to make pumpkins last longer and save some money this Halloween season.
1. Choose a Perfect Pumpkin
The first step in making your Halloween pumpkin last longer is choosing the right one. Choose a hard, solid pumpkin that has no blemishes or signs of rot. If you happen to see a watery, dark spot on top of a pumpkin, pick another because that spot is a sign that the pumpkin has frost damage. The more blemishes a pumpkin has, the more likely it will decay quickly.
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2. Don’t Cut Off the Top
If you want to know how to cut a pumpkin to keep it fresh, don’t cut the top off that pumpkin quite yet. Although tradition is to cut a hole at the top of your pumpkin before gutting and carving it, this is probably the worst thing you can do if you want to preserve your pumpkin. Instead, cut out the bottom of the pumpkin. This way, any decay won’t start from the top and trickle down.
Your pumpkin will keep fresh much longer if moisture can’t collect on the bottom and the stem stays intact. If you still have time, you can make the top into something really cute by learning some cool pumpkin-carving tips or adding decorations to it instead of cutting it off.
3. Clean Your Pumpkin and Use Bleach
To make it last longer, be sure to completely clean out your pumpkin — leaving no guts, seeds or innards inside. Here’s how:
- Cut a large opening in the bottom of your pumpkin, making sure you have enough room to reach your hands in.
- Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to get all of the guts and seeds out.
- Thoroughly scrape the inside of a pumpkin to remove as much of the innards as possible.
Make a solution of 1 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water and use it to thoroughly clean out the pumpkin. Bleach helps kill bacteria and get rid of dirt, which will prevent the pumpkin from growing mold too quickly. The cleaner the pumpkin, the less quickly it will begin to rot.
4. Let the Pumpkin Dry Fully
After the pumpkin is completely gutted and cleaned with a bleach solution, be sure to let it dry fully before carving or setting it outside. Mold is more likely to form if your pumpkin is still wet when you set it outside. Here are some pumpkin-drying tips:
- Use a towel to dry out the inside of the pumpkin as well as you can.
- Leave your pumpkin in a cool, well-ventilated area.
- Don’t use a blow dryer to dry your pumpkin because the heat will accelerate the rotting process.
- Don’t set your pumpkin outside to dry as the outside elements could also make it decay more quickly.
- Use a fan set at low speed to help your pumpkin dry out more completely and quickly.
- Set your pumpkin on top of newspaper for any method of drying you choose to help with the process and make cleaning up easier.
5. Use Petroleum Jelly
Once you’ve carved it, preserve your pumpkin by putting petroleum jelly around the carved edges and along any cut surfaces, as well as all around the inside, to help keep it moisturized. This will ensure the pumpkin stays fresh for a longer amount of time. If you don’t have any petroleum jelly on hand, you can try these other options:
- Vegetable oil
- Olive oil
Or, use a brush to lock in the moisture with one of these products:
- Clear nail polish
- Clear spray paint
- White glue
6. Make Your Own Pumpkin Spray
At this point, it might seem like your pumpkin has become pretty high-maintenance. Even if you're not familiar with making DIY home cleaners, this step is pretty easy. You can make a spray at home using soap, peppermint oil and water to help keep pumpkin mold away. Here's what you'll need:
- 8-ounce spray bottle
- 1 capful liquid peppermint soap
- 6 drops peppermint oil
Peppermint has anti-fungal properties, which can help keep fungus and mold away. Use this homemade spray on the inside, outside and especially on any carved edges of your pumpkin to help prevent decay. If you’re not the DIY type, you could buy some Pumpkin Fresh spray.
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7. Soak the Pumpkin in Cold Water
Before you put your pumpkin on display, or after it’s already been put out and has begun to shrivel, pamper your pumpkin with a cold bath. A quick ice water bath can breathe new life into your pumpkin, especially if it’s already started to wilt a little. Here are some pumpkin bathing tips:
- Fully submerge your pumpkin in ice-cold water for one to two hours.
- You have the option to add a small amount of bleach to the water to help kill any mold starting to form.
- Remove the pumpkin from the ice water bath.
- Apply more moisture using sprays, petroleum jelly or oil.
- Set your newly revived pumpkin back on display once it is dry.
8. Don’t Carve Your Pumpkin
How long will a carved pumpkin last? Longer if you don’t carve it. This might sound odd, but it’s the best way to ensure your pumpkin stays fresh. Instead of carving your pumpkin, decorate it with glitter, googly eyes, yarn, construction paper, paint and more. Or, you can simply use markers to draw a face or design on your pumpkin. Glow-in-the-dark markers or paints could create the look of a jack-o'-lantern with less fuss.
You also can wait until a day or two before Halloween to carve your pumpkin. That way, it’s sure to last through the holiday — and you won’t have to know how to make a carved pumpkin last longer.
9. Keep Your Pumpkin Refrigerated When It’s Not on Display
Warmth makes pumpkins decay more quickly, so if it's still not cool at night where you live, consider storing your pumpkin in the refrigerator overnight. If it's not cold during the day either, bring your pumpkin inside and only display if for a set amount of time each night. For even better preservation, spray your pumpkin with the moisturizing pumpkin spray of your choice and wrap it in a garbage bag to help lock moisture in.
10. Protect Your Pumpkin From Fruit Flies
Like any fruit or vegetable, pumpkins attract fruit flies when they begin to rot. Not only are fruit flies a pesky and unwelcome addition to your home, but they also expedite the rotting process and cause your pumpkin to wilt more quickly. Keep fruit flies at bay with a non-toxic fruit fly trap that you can purchase or make yourself.
11. Keep Your Pumpkin Out of the Sun and Rain
The sun can speed up the decomposition process, and rain can cause your pumpkin to rot. Keep your pumpkin protected from the elements if you want it to last longer.
Enjoy Your Pumpkin
Now that you’re an expert on keeping a pumpkin fresher longer, figure out how to make a Halloween pumpkin that will delight trick-or-treaters. Then, sit back and enjoy a pumpkin latte while everyone else is out buying new pumpkins to replace the rotted ones. And don't forget to take — and share — pictures to enjoy long after you do part with your pumpkin.