How to Preserve Pumpkins Without Bleach

Oct 5, 2021

How to Preserve Pumpkins Without Bleach

Oct 5, 2021

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This post contains affiliate links. This means I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. Read my disclosure here.

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Thank gourd, it’s fall! If you love pumpkin season, here are some great tips on how to preserve pumpkins and gourds – without bleach! I have a clear favorite… hint hint. My best results have lasted a full month without any decay.

how to preserve pumpkins and gourds

Survey Says: Preserve Pumpkins and Gourds WITH…

Bleach. Pinterest is full of beautiful shots of pumpkins floating in a sink full of soapy bleach water. I hear it’s the best option, but I still haven’t tried it – because I can’t stand liquid bleach.

It’s worth noting that bleach is the ultimate bacteria killer. By killing bacteria on the surface of pumpkins and gourds, you’ll slow their decomposition.

You could certainly try it, if you’re willing. Mix 1 tbsp of bleach per gallon of water and dip the gourds in the solution for a few minutes. You don’t need to fill the entire sink, just roll them around for a good soak and let the smaller pumpkins float for 15 minutes.

**Update** A reader (thanks, Renee!) suggests wiping down pumpkins with bleach wipes. Hers have lasted for months with a weekly wipe to kill bacteria. A BRILLIANT compromise that won’t ruin your clothes! (Have you tried the Scentiva bleach wipes? I love them, for a bleach wipe.)

With that said, here is another option to try…

How to Preserve Preserve Pumpkins Without Bleach

Here’s what works for me:

Peppermint oil castile soap is a milder wash for pumpkins, and it works just fine, for me.

how to preserve pumpkins and gourds with castile soap

Using this castile soap, mix up a sink full of soapy peppermint water for your pumpkin bath. I just squirt some soap into the sink of water, but you could aim for a ratio of 3-4 tbsp per gallon of water if you want to be more precise. That measurement is based on my research, but I’m not convinced that it needs to be exact.

how to preserve pumpkins in sinkful of soap

Soak the pumpkins in the mixture and then let them air dry on a towel. Honestly, I have no idea how long to soak them because I’ve read anywhere from 5 minutes to overnight! I soak them for 10 minutes and just scrub the surfaces lightly

You could also mix up 1 tbsp of castile soap to 1 quart of water in a spray bottle. Just spray the outside of the pumpkins and allow them to air-dry. I called it “science” and roped my son into cleaning the larger pumpkins this way. Kids never turn down a spray bottle.

spray castile soap on pumpkins

Best Coating to Preserve Pumpkins and Gourds

Once your gourds are clean and dry, add a protective coating to the outside. Last year, I tested out a glossy clear coat spray, since I had it left over from DIY projects.

WINNER! The gourds coated with clear spray outlasted the others by weeks! You could also choose a matte finish like this product for a more natural look.

clear coat spray MATTE | clear coat spray GLOSS

how to preserve pumpkins with clear spray

How to Preserve Pumpkins with Other Coatings

The peppermint oil wash might work on its own for you, but I still usually have daring squirrels try to chew on the gourds. Here’s how to preserve pumpkins with other coatings, which I tried last year.:

As you can see, these are all petroleum products. I get it if that’s not your thing. In honor of my dad, who used to pop mini WD-40 cans in our Christmas stockings, I gave the grease a spin last year. We always have it on hand for hinges and such, so I just grabbed a can out of the garage. After spraying on the oil, wear latex gloves and spread it over the entire pumpkin.

spray WD-40 for coating

WD-40 deterred pests, so it does work on that front. These gourds just didn’t last as long as the pumpkin sprayed with glossy clear coat.

Don’t use WD-40 on pumpkins you plan to carve and light with real candles. It might be flammable, which is probably not the result you’re after. I prefer these little LED tea lights anyway.

Tips to Preserve Carved Pumpkins

Most of this post focuses on how to preserve pumpkins and gourds that are intact, for decorative displays. Once you carve a pumpkin, the clock starts ticking and it decomposes quickly. Here’s a roundup of options that might slow the process, to be applied to pumpkins both inside and out:

  • rinse or spray with diluted bleach water
  • rinse or spray with peppermint soap water
  • rub petroleum jelly or mineral oil all over the carved pumpkin (best after bleach or soap)
  • rub vegetable oil on the pumpkin*

*If you have an aggressive squirrel nibbling problem like we do, I would avoid this last idea for outdoor pumpkins. It sounds like salad dressing for critters.

Last, if you can store your carved pumpkins in the fridge overnight, that will also help slow down decay. Essentially, the cooler and drier the climate, whether indoors or out, the longer your pumpkins will last.

how to preserve pumpkins once carved
(Some years, we have snow at Halloween. Some years, it’s 80 degrees.)

Where to Find the Best Deals on These Items

Hands down, Trader Joe’s is my favorite spot for unique pumpkins and gourds. Every gourd you see in these photos is from TJ’s. At my local Denver store, the mini pumpkins and gourds were $0.69-$1.29 each, and the specialty shapes are each $6.99. I splurged a bit this year with quantity, but it’s for the sake of preservation research. Go big or go home, right?

pumpkins on display

I also bought a tank of castile soap at Trader Joe’s for $13. It’s available online at Amazon and Target, and you can often find travel sizes in drugstores if you only want a small bottle.

Protective coating options, in case you don’t already have one on the shelf:

WD-40 | mineral oil | petroleum jelly | clear coat spray MATTE | clear coat spray GLOSS

Here’s the whole display of gourd-geous fall decor on our front porch last year.

Read about our new front door here!

new front door and fall porch display

How to Stencil a Coir Doormat

how to preserve pumpkins for outside

More Decor + DIY Inspo From List in Progress

list in progress projects

1 – Easy DIY Wax Melts to Make Your Home Smell Great
2 – Affordable (and Free!) Ideas for Fall Decor
3 – My Favorite Affordable Turkish Towels
4 – A “Work in Progress” Home Tour

Hi! I’m Erin, a Colorado-based home improvement blogger and lover of all things DIY. I aim to inspire creative folks to tackle home improvement with confidence and style. READ MORE
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