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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

How To Preserve a Carved Halloween Pumpkin

By October 6, 2013

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Keep your pumpkin from rotting! (Getty Images)Halloween is my favorite holiday, so I've been carving pumpkins since they first appeared in the stores. It used to be multiple generations of carved jack o lanterns would shrivel and mold into slime on my porch before Halloween, but now one set lasts the whole season. This is due partly to postponing the carving until October (use the glow in the dark pumpkin if you want a pumpkin that lasts several months) and partly from judicious application of homemade pumpkin preservatives:
  1. Mix up a preservative solution for your carved pumpkin consisting of 2 teaspoons of bleach per gallon of water.

  2. Fill a sink, bucket, or tub with enough of the bleach solution to totally immerse the carved jack o lantern. Place the jack o lantern in the bleach mixture right after you have finished carving it. Soak the carved pumpkin for 8 hours or overnight.

  3. Remove the pumpkin from the liquid and allow it to air dry. Spray the pumpkin inside and outside with a commercial pumpkin preservative or use your own mixture, consisting of 1 teaspoon of bleach in water. Spray the pumpkin once daily, to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold.

  4. Smear petroleum jelly on all of the cut surfaces of the pumpkin. This will prevent the pumpkin from drying out and getting that puckered look.

  5. Protect the jack o lantern from sun or rain, since one will dry the pumpkin out, while the other will promote the growth of mold. If possible, refrigerate your jack o lantern when it's not in use.
More Carved Pumpkin Preservation Tips


October 24, 2013 at 4:34 pm
(1) Lola Clarks says:

what if you are a kid and you want to be responsible any no cook no bleach ideas?

October 24, 2013 at 6:57 pm
(2) laura sweet says:

That is the most ridiculous, labor-intensive, convoluted, time-consuming process I have ever heard of. It would be easier to carve a new pumpkin every other day.

October 31, 2013 at 7:08 pm
(3) Tyler Durden says:

It would be easier to carve a new pumpkin every other day,… if you carve s***y pumpkins. Some of use put effort into things for others and ourselves .

November 14, 2013 at 5:54 pm
(4) MG anon says:

Actually, that’s a really excellent (and easy) way to preserve pumpkin. I don’t think you’d need to soak it overnight, though.
I do that for my garden squash that I’m storing for winter (just wash them for 5 seconds in a tub/pot of bleached water: kills external bacteria, and cleans the dirt off!)
Of course, with a carved jack’o'lantern, the bacteria has faster access so it’s not going to last all winter like an uncut squash will, but it should really extend the life. Especially if you’re following up with a bleach-water squirt bottle every few days.

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