How to Preserve Carved Pumpkins for a Longer-Lasting Display

Although there's no way to make your carved pumpkins last forever, you can still take a few steps to extend their life.

skull and crossbones carved into pumpkin
Jason Donnelly

Pumpkin season is here! You've scored the perfect pumpkin at the patch and carved the coolest design onto it (like a stencil of your dog), only for it to be rotten before Halloween week even starts. Now what? Don't let your precious pumpkin carving time and effort go to waste: Learn how to make your carved pumpkins last longer.

There are some precautions you can take to preserve your pumpkin before you even start carving, as well as care techniques to follow when you're finished to ensure that your pumpkin will be looking fresh until October 31.

Before You Start…

Let It Dry

When cleaning out your pumpkin, make sure that the inside is completely free of guts. Before taking carving tools to your pumpkin, let the cavity dry out; moisture inside the pumpkin, paired with more air exposure from cuts, will lead to faster rot.

Leave the Stem Alone

Cutting a hole in the top of your pumpkin (where the stem is) to empty its cavity may seem like the natural way to do it. However, cutting the stem off is actually unhealthy for the pumpkin—the stem serves as the pumpkin's lifeline, still delivering nutrients to the rest of the pumpkin (even off the vine!). Instead of cutting an opening around the top, cut one on the side or back of the pumpkin. That way, the stem stays attached. You'll find everything you need in a basic pumpkin carving kit ($19, Amazon).

Once It’s Carved…

Make a Pumpkin Spray

DIY a pumpkin spray to keep your jack-o'-lantern looking its best all season. Fill up an empty spray bottle with water and add one tablespoon of peppermint castile soap (from $5, Amazon). Shake the bottle to mix contents and spray your carved pumpkin daily. Peppermint acts as a natural fungicide, which will slow down the decay process.

Avoid Candles

While a flickering candle inside your carved pumpkin is festive at night, it's best to avoid fire in or near your pumpkin. The flame inside a pumpkin will cause the interior to dry out, causing it to rot faster. Instead, use a flickering battery-operated light ($9 for 12, Amazon).

Moisturize It

You may notice that when carved pumpkins begin to rot, the edges where they're cut are the first places to deteriorate. Rub petroleum jelly ($4, Target) around the carved parts of the pumpkin to lock in moisture. If you don't have petroleum jelly on hand, use olive oil or coconut oil.

Give It a Bath

Pumpkins resist heat, so shriveling is a good indication that your pumpkin needs a cold shock. Try giving it an ice bath for about an hour or leave it in the refrigerator overnight. This is especially helpful if you live in a region where Halloweens are warm and humid.

Keep Bugs Away

Keep fruit flies from eating away at your pumpkin. To do this, you need to first make sure that all pumpkin guts are removed, which is what the fruit flies are really on the hunt for. If you notice that these pesky insects are hanging around your pumpkin, place a fruit fly trap ($8, Amazon) nearby.

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