How To Preserve Pumpkins & Gourds

How to preserve pumpkins and gourds, using just three ingredients. This tried and true method keeps pumpkins and gourds from rotting, and is so easy!

preserved pumpkins on kitchen towel

Fall has arrived. It’s your favorite season, and you have been looking forward to it all summer. You purchased your pumpkins & gourds, and brought them home to decorate your home.

mini pumpkins in bowl on coffee table

They are scattered around your rooms, in little vignettes, and you just love the way everything looks. Perhaps you plan to incorporate a carved pumpkin or two as well. A week later, you see a pumpkin out of place. You pick it up, only to find out that it’s rotten and smelly! Read on for a tried and true way to avoid this heartbreak!

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how to preserve pumpkins

I’ve included this little trick for how to preserve pumpkins & gourds in a couple of emails to my subscribers, but I wanted to make sure that everyone sees how easy this is. It really works, so your real pumpkins & gourds will last for weeks. This also works to preserve pumpkins intended for carving jack-o-lanterns, and any other types of squash. Make sure to give the pumpkins a bath BEFORE the insides and pumpkin seeds are removed.

pumpkins soaking in kitchen sink

Why Pumpkins + Gourds Rot

The thing that makes pumpkins & gourds rot in the first place is the dirt, bacteria, moisture, and mold that they pick up in the fields where they are grown. All of these things are enemies when it comes to bringing pumpkins indoors from outside. In order to preserve them, and prevent the rotting, that dirt, bacteria, and mold must be removed. So if you’ve always wondered how to preserve pumpkins easily, here you go!

mini pumpkins drying on towel

What is the best way to preserve a pumpkin?

  • Prepare a mixture of bleach, water and dish soap. 
    (One gallon of water, 2 tablespoons bleach, and a squirt of dish soap.)
  • It’s optional, but adding a few drops of peppermint essential oil to your water mixture helps destroy the bacteria.
  • Soak real gourds for 30 minutes.
  • Use a bucket, large dishpan, or your kitchen sink.
  • Rinse and dry well.
  • Before adding to your decor, it’s optional to give your pumpkins a quick coat of spray matte sealer. It helps preserve them even longer. 
how to preserve pumpkins bleach water in washtub

Tips + Tricks

Place the pumpkins in your sink, turn on the water, then add the bleach and dish soap. The water should be warm, not hot. Roll the pumpkins around several times so the bottoms and tops have time to soak. The stem needs to be soaked as well. You don’t need deep water, because the smaller pumpkins actually float. If you are soaking large pumpkins, simply roll them around until the entire pumpkin has been cleaned.

how to preserve pumpkins with bleach

An Extra Step for Added Success

After their bath, rinse the pumpkins well, and let them dry on a towel. Make sure they are completely dry before they are displayed. There’s an extra step you can take that will make your pumpkins last even longer. If you have time, spray them with a thin coat of matte sealer. Another less convenient way to seal the pumpkins is to apply a very thin coat of petroleum jelly or vegetable oil.

Word of Caution

I’ve had a few readers write and warn against combining dish soap and bleach. If used together, they can omit a harmful gas. The amounts used in this method are so small, and the water component dilutes the other two ingredients. I have NEVER had an issue. If you are concerned, please don’t use this method. Or you can leave out the dish soap ingredient and simply use bleach.

How long will the preserved pumpkins + gourds last?

So how long will pumpkins and gourds last after their bath? My best answer is at least a few weeks, but probably much longer. It depends on the heat and humidity in your house, plus the condition the gourds were in when you bought them.

  • Try to choose pumpkins and gourds that are somewhat clean and free from bruises.
  • The sooner you buy your gourds, the better. By getting them early in the season, you will get the best choice, and your gourds will be fresh. Waiting until the week before Halloween will guarantee you’ll go home with a pumpkin that’s been sitting around for a while.
  • For the past few years, I have purchased my real pumpkins & gourds as soon as they are available at the farm stand, which is usually in early September. Without fail, they have all stayed fresh and firm throughout the fall season.

What readers are saying

“I’ve been preserving pumpkins using your method for several years. How long do they last…well, I tie red & green ribbons on for Christmas, pink for Valentines, Shamrock ribbons for St. Patricks, pastel ribbons for Easter. Yes, they really last that long…I only get rid of them because I’m tired of them being around!”


“I have done this the past few years and the small pumpkins have actually lasted up to 9 months. Really! Hard to believe but true. It’s a great idea.”

Mary Jane

free fall printable gift tag on mini orange pumpkin
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Fall is, quite possibly, my favorite time of year. It’s really hard to choose a favorite season, but if I had to, it would be fall. My love for fall is reflected in the content on this website.

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  1. I preserve mine in bleach, straight bleach and water, nothing else, half and half. I have had some for 4 years now!! I put them out every year. Great post!

    1. I should also add, I live in Arizona where the humidity is next to none🏜
      Makes a huge difference for sure!!

  2. I have been preserving outdoor pumpkins using a similar method for years (no bath, just a spritz of bleach, wipe down and coat with a clear, matte varnish).

    Honestly, I had one of those lovely soft green, princess-type pumpkins go 1-1/2 years out in my garden decor! He looked just a good when I finally made the decision to toss him.

    The only down side to the varnish, you cannot use for compost or animal feed!!

  3. Your idea for preserving pumpkins is good….but…. I use my old pumpkins for either short term bird feeders or feed to my chickens so I will have to pass. 🤣. I do really enjoy reading your posts and have saved many of your recipes. Peace.

  4. Must tell you I am not a cook, but made your one pot potato soup and sent to neighbor and to a friend suffering from covid. A hit with everone! Planning to serve at a monthly card game with siblings. So easy and yummy. Thanks.

  5. Jan Colby says:

    I’ve been preserving pumpkins using your method for several years. How long do they last…well, I tie red & green ribbons on for Christmas, pink for Valentines, Shamrock ribbons for St. Patricks, pastel ribbons for Easter. Yes, they really last that long…I only get rid of them because I’m tired of them being around!

  6. Ann,
    I remembered this handy tip last year and I just completed the process. Thank you so much. It makes sense and I’m sure it will work.
    Thanks for your always helpful posts.
    Karen B.

  7. I can’t thank you enough for sharing this information. The layout is beautiful on your post as well. Thank you. Well done indeed! Where do I get those beautiful white beads?

  8. Hi, I find your tip for preserving the Gourds and Pumpkins very useful,and I am going to try it, I would also like to ask how would i preserve the Pumpkins if I wanted to make pies afterward.

  9. I love your decorating. It is relaxed and beautiful! I also enjoy your many recipes. Delicious! I look forward to reading your blog. Thank you

  10. Thank you very much for the information about preserving pumpkins. I can’t wait for fall to come!
    Your a great inspiration.

  11. Cindy Rust says:

    Thanks for the tips on preserving pumpkins. I haven’t tried this method but I certainly will now!

  12. Great tip! Wish I knew about how to preserve pumpkins years ago!

    1. PAULA WINDER says:

      I make bowls out of my gourds. They last forever, unless they get broken. They are glazed a couple of times & I use them for misc snacks, & many other things. Have a blessed Halloween!

    2. I wish I had some home grown pumpkins to try this method,of preservation but the deer ate my vines down to nothing this year. Iwill be going to a local farm market this year to buy some and definitely will try your ideas to. keep them fresh. Thankyou.

  13. 5 stars
    Thank you for posting this. Bugs have gotten to my
    garden gourds and pumpkins. They need to be picked but I didn’t know what to do. I figured if I pull them up at this time they would be gross by fall. Your post appeared at the perfect time. Are you a mind reader? 😆

    1. No…I’m not. But your comment just completely made my day. Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know!

  14. Lucia Donahower says:

    Thank you Ann for such great ideas.

  15. Judy Bridgers says:

    5 stars
    Thank you. I have been enjoying your blog for years. Your taste is Impeccable. Love it all! Thank you for sharing your ideas!

  16. Donna Mead says:

    5 stars
    Thanks for the post, I will certainly do this. As an additional note, I have let my small decorative gourds dry out completely (the first time was by accident!), and they can then be painted and make fun natural percussion type rattles!
    Thanks for the great posts, I really enjoy your work.

  17. Mary Jane Peterson says:

    I have done this the past few years and the small pumpkins have actually lasted up to 9 months. Really! Hard to believe but true. It’s a great idea.

  18. Thank you for this. I have found it really does help prolong life of pumpkins. And, I like to use the shiny spray -Krylon or evening Walmart – for a little more light-catching. Gold is really pretty too!!!

  19. Barbara Harilaou says:

    I’ve planted gourds and pumpkins in my garden this year. I intend to decorate my house come fall season and the idea of them lasting longer is great thank you so much for this post on how to preserve them longer. Have a great day XOXO

  20. Deborah P says:

    Thank you! After having a pumpkin rot on a former kitchen table and leaving a stain, I’m leery of real pumpkins/gourds. I’ve printed off these instructions and will venture again into the wild! :)

  21. Thank you for sharing how to preserve our fall pumpkins.

  22. Patricia Harkness says:

    Thank you for teaching us how to preserve our pumpkins and gourds. I use this method every year, and it works great!


  23. Always inspired by your creativity. Love the blog. Love fall too!


  24. What about the insides of the gourds and the pumpkins doesn’t that eventually rot how do you empty paint inside of the gourd if you want to make instruments or bowls or birdhouses

    1. Hi Margaret…yes, the insides of the pumpkins or gourds will eventually rot. For the past few years, my pumpkins have lasted 6-8 weeks after the washing technique. As far as removing the insides, I have never done that, so I am no help there!

    2. Donna Mead says:

      Hi Margaret,
      I just posted above about letting the small decorative gourds dry out. I let them sit in a cool, dry area till spring and have had great success in them drying out to make easy natural rattle type instruments from. I’ve only had one gourd ever collapse and rot. I do live in a dry climate (southwest), so I can’t say how a humid area would cause them to react.

  25. Wow, I need to do this! Maybe my pumpkins will last longer this year.

  26. Thank you for the info! Always appreciate learning new things on your blog. Have a nice fall weekend!

  27. Thank you for the tip. I’ll be doing this with my pumpkins this year.

  28. Who knew you could preserve pumpkins and gourds! Thank you so much for sharing this information as I am going to definitely try this. Pumpkins are just a staple in fall decorating. Love your blog Ann!

  29. Thank you so much for the washing instructions. My pumpkins have to last from early October to Thanksgiving, so I will definitely use your directions. I have never heard of including the matte spray, but it makes sense that it would add a layer of protection. Just adding this to my long list of things I have learned from you!

  30. What valuable advice…I am always so disappointed when pumpkins don’t last the season.

  31. Really great information about the pumpkins & goards. What a great idea. So much better than the plastic ones from Michael’s too. Love it !!

  32. Deb Porter says:

    Thank you so much for the ideas. I love my home and I love making it look it’s best so I enjoy looking at other homes that are obviously well loved for ideas.

  33. Hello Ann,
    Love your home style, displays, wreaths & tips which are beautifully photographed. I’ve picked up lots of ideas for my home – I live in Derbyshire, England.

  34. Here in the U.K., pumpkin choice isn’t the greatest to begin with and I’ve yet to see even one white or heirloom specimen! However, I’ve always left buying what we do have it until the last minute, thinking that was best. Now I know to get in early and ready the bath!! Thanks Ann! Sue x

  35. Patricia A Cahill says:

    Hello Ann, How lucky am I to have found your site. Thank you and your kind heart for sharing this elegant and always perfectly done information. I am truly a fan.
    as ever,

  36. Lee Durden says:

    Thanks sooo much for this “pumpkin preserving ” post. I have a garden full of Casperita white pumpkins to decorate with when I get home from Montana & want them to last awhile. U are the Best!

  37. Mary Meusburger says:

    Thank you, Ann, for all the great tips and inspiration. I love your printables and have several frames I use to switch them out with the seasons. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to your posts. I find something special in each one. You are a very talented lady and I admire your sense of style and creativity.

  38. Thanks for the tips on preserving those beautiful Fall pumpkins & gourds. I love this time of year and all the decorating. But I hate to see things get rotty and yucky. I will be trying your tips this year. Your home and porch is very pretty; always enjoy your posts. Enjoy this beautiful season.

  39. Thanks for the tip Ann.

  40. Cheryl Ann says:

    Thanks so much Ann. It opened on my phone, so the problem is probably on my end. You have the best blog! Blessings my friend…

  41. Hi Ann,
    Thanks for the pumpkin tip. Here on the coast we have to battle the salt air and humidity, so anything to help them last longer is a good thing.


  42. Susan Cecere says:

    I have always washed pumkins coming into the housed. One year I sprayed a primer coat, and then a metallic silver on top. I had those pumpkins for what seemed like forever on our small front porch.

  43. Jacque Avant says:

    Thank you so much for this great tip to save your fresh gourds and pumpkins. They are not cheap when you purchase them and now I will buy some. Love the real so much better than the manufactured one.

  44. Thanks for the tip Ann…I always end up with 1 or 2 rotten gourds by the time Halloween rolls around. I will definitely will be trying this. Have a wonderful day!