How to Preserve Your Pumpkins to Make Them Last Longer

4 Materials
1 Hour

Earlier this week, I came home from a local farm, with a trunk load of beautiful pumpkins. Because it’s still mid-September, and I want these to last as long as possible, I took some steps to preserve them before getting them set up in my Fall Front Porch design.

Trim the Stems as Necessary

A couple of my pumpkins had excessively long stems, or a stem with a rotten spot on it. Before you do anything else to your pumpkins, make sure the stems are the length you prefer (especially if you’re going to stack them), and that you’ve trimmed away any rotten or moldy parts of the stem. You don’t want the mold to grow and cause decay of the pumpkin.

Learn how to grow winter squash yourself.

Clean & Disinfect Your Pumpkins

Next, you want to clean your pumpkins well, removing any dirt or mud left from the pumpkin patch. I just used a wet cloth to wipe away the dirt.

Now, it’s time to disinfect your pumpkins.

Things you will need:

  • bleach (or vinegar if you want a non-toxic option)
  • water
  • a spray bottle OR a bucket/bowl to hold your bleach/water mixture (if you use vinegar, I'd use it full strength with no water)
  • an old wrag or paper towels

Mix 1 part bleach with 3 parts water. I poured mine into an empty spray bottle, but you could also mix the solution in a bowl/bucket and dip your wrag into it.

Spray the entire surface of your pumpkin with the bleach/water solution (or dampen your cloth in the bleach mixture OR vinegar) and wipe down the entire shell of the pumpkin thoroughly.

This kills any bacteria or fungal spores on the pumpkin’s rind and stem, preventing premature rot.

Let the pumpkins dry completely before proceeding to the next step.

NOTE: I just washed the pumpkins down with a bleach/water mixture, and then wiped with wrags to get the bacteria off. There should not be enough bleach residue left on the pumpkin to harm the animals. This is not the same treatment as soaking carved pumpkins in bleach, which may be problematic. Because of the spray paint on the outside of my uncarved pumpkins, I don't think animals will eat them, any more than they would eat an artificial pumpkin. I've been doing this for years, and I live in a rural area, and have never had anything try to take one bite out of my pumpkins.

I certainly don't want any animals harmed, so use your judgement in your area.

Spray With Clear Spray Paint

I used a satin finish, which gave my pumpkins just a very slight sheen, but you can use whatever you prefer or have on hand. If you want your pumpkins shiny, go for a glossy spray. If you want them to look very natural, use a matte spray.

Coat each pumpkin with a nice even spray of your clear paint on all surfaces, including the stem and blossom spot on the bottom. The goal is to give the pumpkins a good seal, and keep any moisture or bacteria from entering and beginning the rotting process.

One of my white pumpkins had a little bit of a blemish, and I made sure to go back and give that particular spot an extra coat after the first was dry, to make sure I sealed it as well as possible. Any knicks or holes in the rind will be the first spots that start to soften, so make sure to coat them well with your sealant, without over-saturating.

I sprayed the top halves of my pumkins and let the spray dry for about 30 minutes, before rolling them all over and spraying the bottom halves.

After another 30 minutes, they were dry and ready to be used in my Front Porch Decor!

Protect Your Pumpkins From Extreme Weather

The cleaning/sealing process can extend the life of your pumpkins by several weeks, but extreme weather is also a danger to your pumpkins, causing them to decay at a faster-than-average rate.

If temperatures in your area are extremely warm, or below freezing, don’t leave your pumpkins out in the elements.

If we have an extra hot spell in the early fall after I’ve decorated with pumpkins, I try to move them into the shade during the hottest part of the day.

As we move into late fall, I set my pumpkins inside the garage on nights that are projected to drop below freezing.

By following the proper cleaning and sealing steps, as well as protecting my pumpkins from extreme weather, I’m hoping to keep them usable for my fall, Halloween and Thanksgiving decor. The goal is to not have to throw them away until I’m ready to put out my Christmas greenery!

Can you believe I just said, “Christmas”?! icon

-Niky @ The House on Silverado

Visit my blog to see my finished Cozy Fall Front Porch where I used all my preserved pumpkins!

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Niky | The House on Silverado
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  • P P on Oct 05, 2021

    when you are ready to put up your next season's decorations -Christmas- please consider donating the pumpkins to the local food pantry or homeless shelter - the insides should still be good to make soup or pies out of if the outsides have been preserved - I'd warn the recipients not to use the outsides that had bleach or paint applied!

  • Em Em on Oct 05, 2021

    I always make pumpkin red wine soup out of mine. So nothing but soap and water on mine.