Tips for Keeping Your Fall Pumpkins from Rotting

By · October 19, 2022

Pumpkins are practically synonymous with fall and when leaves start to change and the air turns chilly, they show up on porches everywhere signaling the end of summer and beginning of a new season ahead.

There are so many ways to display and decorate a pumpkin from carving to painting and of course everyone has a favorite. But keeping pumpkins fresh enough to last the whole season can be challenging if proper measures aren’t taken early in the process.

Rotting pumpkin

How to Keep Carved Pumpkins from Rotting

The tradition of pumpkin carving in October is deep rooted and steeped in Irish lore. The story of the “Jack o’ Lantern,” was one of a naughty man who tricked the devil and was doomed to walk the earth with just a lump of coal for light carried in a carved turnip. After learning John’s terrible fate, the legend tells of people carving pumpkins to light the way for the good spirits and to scare away the bad spirits.

Carved pumpkins

Carving a scary face on a pumpkin is an easy way to get kids involved in some spooky fun at Halloween. And to keep that pumpkin firm and looking scary for a long time, try one of the following proven methods:

Bleach Bath

Submerge the carved pumpkin into a bucket of water and 2/3 cups of bleach for 24 hours to kill off bacteria and fungus which promotes rotting.

Bleach bath for pumpkin

Air Dry

Keep your pumpkin in a cool, dry area and safe from rain or snow fall because that excess moisture will encourage mold growth.

Petroleum Jelly/Vegetable Oil

After thoroughly cleaning and carving the pumpkin, coat the cuts with petroleum jelly or cooking oil to keep it from drying out too quickly.

Petroleum jelly for pumpkin

Ice Water

If the pumpkin does begin to wilt, dunk it in a bowl of ice water over night to rehydrate.

Enlist Essential Oils

Mix a solution of peppermint oil and water in a spray bottle and mist the carved pumpkin daily to keep bugs and bacteria away.

Forgo the Flame

Use battery operated candles in the pumpkin to give that eerie glow-real candles are not only a fire hazard but can also speed up the drying and decaying process.

Alternatives to Pumpkin Carving

If the intention is to use the pumpkin as a decoration well before and beyond Halloween, consider some alternatives to carving. Painting a face on the pumpkin is a great way to add some character while preserving the integrity at the same time. Get creative with glitter, ribbon, stencils and decals as well to decorate with-there is no limit as to what materials can be used to make the pumpkin look festive.

Painted pumpkin

Another great idea to showcase a variety of pumpkin sizes, is to stack them up and make an ornamental topiary for the front porch. Adding in seasonal greenery and autumn themed ribbons will boost the aesthetic presence and create a statement piece that will carry through until winter comes with proper preservation.

Stacked pumpkins

Whimsical “pumpkin people” are a fun way to use non carved pumpkins to infuse some life into a late season garden that might now be turning brown and drying up. The process is a simple one-stack up varying sizes of larger pumpkins and “dress” them in old clothing. Paint some creepy faces and add a straw hat for a decorative addition to the back yard.

How to Keep Uncarved Pumpkins from Rotting

Uncarved pumpkins will of course last much longer than their carved counterparts, but they still require the same care and attention to ensure their beauty as long as possible. Some great ideas to keep an uncarved pumpkin fresh include:

Floor Wax

Grab a rag and shine up the pumpkin’s surface areas with a little floor wax to create a barrier to moisture and mold-a simple method that can extend the life by up to four weeks.

Floor wax on pumpkins


The same bleach solution used to preserve the carved pumpkin will also work on uncarved ones-it is a bit easier on uncarved to just apply the bleach with a rag instead of submerging for the same preservation affect.


A waterproof sealant sprayed over the surface of the pumpkin to make it last longer, and a great bonus is that the shellac will extend the life of the paint if added for decoration.

Thompson WaterSeal

Avoid Direct Sun

Place pumpkins in shady area to keep the sun from accelerating the drying process.


Use a standby lubricant like WD-40 all over an uncarved pumpkin to make it resistant to the elements and pests-but if this method is used do not use any open flame near the pumpkin as using this will make it flammable.


Putting the uncarved pumpkin in the refrigerator when not displayed will extend freshness for the whole season.

Carving, painting or creating something unique with a beautiful bright orange pumpkin is a wonderful way to bring in the fall season and celebrate Halloween.

Pumpkins have been a symbol of autumn’s entrance for a long time and the display of the much- loved squash is something that everyone looks forward to seeing when the calendar page flips to October.

Taking some time to carefully preserve the pumpkins carefully chosen from the store, or right from the patch, will assure long lasting enjoyment for everyone.

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