How to Make Your Pumpkins—Carved or Not—Last Beyond October 31

Enjoy your gorgeous gourds all spooky-season long with a few simple steps.

Pumpkins have a long shelf life, but it's not unlimited. Under certain conditions, carved jack-o'-lanterns and decorative no-carve pumpkins might become moldy and rotten before you even get to October 31st. So it's important to be mindful and try to make pumpkins last longer. Ideally, pumpkins should be able to last through Halloween and potentially Thanksgiving.

First, the most important thing you can do is try not to carve your pumpkin too early. We know that's tough to do. The long lead-up to Halloween is arguably the best part of the holiday—that's when you go pumpkin picking and bring out your spooky Halloween decorations. However, prematurely carved pumpkins can more easily fall prey to bugs or poor conditions. Next, follow these simple steps to prolong its life, whether your pumpkin will be carved or left whole.

What You'll Need

  • Clorox disinfecting bleach
  • Clean four-gallon bucket
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Spray bottle


Create a Bleach Solution

Fill a bucket with 3 gallons of water, then add 3 teaspoons of bleach. You can create more or less of the solution, depending on the size of your bucket, the sizes of your pumpkins, and the number of pumpkins you're hoping to preserve.

Stick to a 1:1 ratio: 1 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water. Then, carefully add some solution to a spray bottle, or mix it directly in the bottle if it's large enough.

Clean the Surface

Cut open and scoop out the inside of the pumpkin, as you would for carving the pumpkin. Clean the inside and outside of the pumpkin with the bleach solution in the spray bottle. (The spray bottle makes it easier to treat the whole pumpkin.) This sterilizes the pumpkin, killing any existing bacteria to slow the decay of the gourd. Let the pumpkin dry fully before carving. If you're not carving the pumpkin, simply clean the exterior with the bleach solution.

Carve the Pumpkin, if Applicable

Once your cleaned pumpkin is dry, proceed as usual with your favorite spooky pumpkin stencils. If you opted not to carve your pumpkin, skip to the next step.

Soak in a Bleach Solution

Bring your pumpkin to the bucket with the 3-gallon bleach solution and submerge it. The pumpkin will float, so stir it around a little to ensure all surfaces are submerged in the bleach solution for a full two minutes. (Don't forget the top!)

We recommend soaking the pumpkin upright for two minutes, then turning it over so the top is submerged for another two minutes to ensure it's fully soaked.

Once the pumpkin has been thoroughly soaked, remove it and let it air dry on paper towels. Next, pour the soaking solution down the drain. (Keep the solution in your spray bottle for later.)

Keep It Hydrated Throughout the Season

Pumpkins shrivel because they run out of moisture. To prevent this—and to limit the growth of bacteria—spray your pumpkin every day with your spray bottle containing the bleach solution. If you run out, simply make more by mixing a few drops of bleach with water.

Since your pumpkin is sitting outside, don't worry about hurting squirrels or other creatures who may nibble at it with the bleach: During normal household use, bleach breaks down primarily into salt and water. With the dilute solution created to preserve your pumpkins, the bleach will break down to table salt and water when exposed to air and sun, making it harmless to anything that takes a bite.

Troubleshoot Any Issues

  • Keep the pumpkin under wraps if you carve too early. If you carved too early, you can preserve your carved pumpkin by keeping it wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated when not on display.
  • Use petroleum jelly if you want to avoid harsh chemicals. No bleach? Swipe some petroleum jelly onto the carved parts of the pumpkin. It will serve as a protective layer that keeps moisture in and prevents the pumpkin from drying out and looking shriveled.
  • Revive shriveled pumpkins in an ice bath. If your pumpkin starts to shrivel before the holiday, revive it in an ice bath with a capful of bleach added. (Be sure to remove any lights or electronics before dunking.) This quick dip helps deter mold growth and miraculously brings pumpkins back from the dead. Spooky, right?
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