Hacks To Keep Your Fall Pumpkins Fresh

Fall is the perfect time for all things pumpkin-related: pumpkin spice, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin decor. With the crisp breezes and all the excitement of the upcoming holidays, you may be thinking about how to incorporate real pumpkins into your indoor and outdoor decorations. Fresh pumpkins can last from one to three months if they are not carved or damaged. Once cut, however, they only last about one week before they start to decompose. To keep your gorgeous gourds from rotting before the fall holidays, there are a few ways to protect them.

Pumpkins come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Mini pumpkins are fun to add to holiday centerpieces, and white pumpkins add contrast to outdoor arrangments. Some of these cucurbits have smooth skin, while others have more interesting textures. Pumpkins can be tall and thin or short and squat, and we think they're all beautiful. Whether you purchase your pumpkins from the store or spend a day at the pumpkin patch with your family, you can make the most of your seasonal purchase with these hacks.

Start with bleach

Dirt and debris on pumpkins can lead to the growth of bacteria, so cleaning your purchases with a bleach mixture can help them last longer. Bleach will kill any unwanted organisms on the skin of your uncut pumpkin. You can use this process to clean pumpkins you plan to display uncarved or those you intend to turn into a jack-o'-lantern. If you carve a pumpkin with bacteria on the outside, you are immediately introducing that bacteria to the inside when you start cutting, which will cause your pumpkin to rot more quickly.

To sterilize your fresh pumpkin, remove all visible dirt and debris with a damp cloth. Mix one teaspoon of bleach with a quart of water in a spray bottle and soak the outside of the pumpkin from the stem to the bottom. Remember that bleach is caustic and could irritate your skin and ruin your clothes, so wear protective gloves and old clothes before you start the cleaning process. If you have already carved your pumpkin, you can still use bleach to help it last longer. Just fill your sink or a bucket with cold water and add ¾ cup of bleach. Submerge your pumpkin and let it soak up to one day to kill bacteria. You can use this hack alone or follow it up with one of the other options on this list for extra protection against rotting.

Seal it with petroleum jelly

One reason a pumpkin may rot quickly is because its skin dries out. As they sit outside, moisture escapes from their outer layer and they crack, letting in bacteria. You can help your pumpkin's skin stay moist and last longer by sealing it with petroleum jelly, also known by the brand name Vaseline. Unlike lotions which soak into the skin, adding moisture, these petroleum-based products act as a sealant to prevent existing moisture from escaping. You might remember your grandma slathering her face in Vaseline at the end of the day. This product preserves pumpkin skin in the same way it did hers.

The process of using petroleum jelly is pretty simple — just apply a thin layer all over the pumpkin. While it might help make jack-o'-lanterns last a little longer, because they are carved, it might not make much difference, although it's certainly worth a try. It's also important to keep in mind that because this is a petroleum-based product, it's highly flammable. Do not use it on carved pumpkins in which you are using a real candle.

Spritz your pumpkin with hairspray

Hairspray is a good option for carved pumpkins because it is easy to apply and it adds a layer of sealant to that inside fleshy part that is so prone to rotting. Plus, you probably already have it in the house, so there's no need to make an extra trip to the store for this preservation hack. Consider this option If you live in an area where deer might make a tasty snack out of your pumpkins. The smell and taste of hairspray are a strong deterrent against large and small pests like deer, squirrels, and mice.

Aerosol hairspray would be easier to apply than an option with a pump sprayer, but you can use whatever you have. Spray your pumpkin thoroughly inside and out. This is an "'80s teased bangs" situation, so spray it once, let it dry, then spray again one or two times to get a nice layer of hairspray throughout the pumpkin. Reapplying hairspray to your jack-o'-lantern every day or so can help it last even longer.

Apply spray paint

Applying a coat of clear spray paint to your pumpkins not only helps them last longer by blocking out all sources of bacteria, but it can also add a bit of pizzazz by slightly altering the gourd's natural surface texture. You can make your pumpkins look glassy with a few coats of extra shiny clear spray paint or give them a smooth finish with a matte spray. You don't have to stop at clear, though. If you're saving money on fall decor by buying plain store-bought pumpkins, you can use any color of spray paint you already have leftover from other projects. The color options are practically endless, and you can even use metallic finishes like copper or silver for outdoor decor that is truly unique.

You can use clear spray paint to help preserve carved pumpkins by giving the inside and outside a few coats. If you want to use tinted spray paint and carve your pumpkin, paint the outside first and let it dry. Then, clean out the inside and start cutting. If you decide to spray the inside of your pumpkin, only use a battery-operated candle because the finish could be flammable and the heat from the fire will damage tinted paint.

Be mindful of your pumpkin placement

Where you put your whole or carved pumpkin is just as important as how you clean and preserve it. A carved pumpkin on a warm, sunny porch will decompose much more quickly than one kept in a cool, shady spot. If you live in a region where the days are still very warm, you may want to enjoy your jack-o'-lanterns indoors where the air conditioning keeps the house cool and reduces the level of humidity. For those living in an area with nights hovering in the 40-degree Fahrenheit area, your carved pumpkins may last longer if they are protected from the sun during the day. Bring your pumpkins in if it's going to rain because that will definitely speed up the rotting process.

There's no one way to keep pumpkins fresh forever, but by using a combination of practices, you might be able to keep them longer than if you just bring them home and dump them on the porch. Disinfecting your fresh pumpkins, providing some kind of sealant to keep the bacteria out, and storing them properly could keep you from having to buy a whole new batch before the holidays roll around. Keep in mind that most of these practices are toxic to wildlife, so throw your pumpkins away when they have started to decompose.