How to Prevent Pumpkins from Rotting And Keep Your Jack-O-Lantern Looking Fresh for Weeks

published Oct 13, 2017
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(Image credit: Arina P Habich)

For a holiday all about horror, the most terrifying thing about Halloween might just be how long you have to wait to carve your pumpkin. Depending on the weather where you live, you might only get a few days — maybe a week, tops — with your Jack-O-Lantern before mold and rot set in, or the whole thing shrivels and dries out.

What’s the ideal weather for a pumpkin?

Cornell University horticulturist Steve Reiners told NPR that the best storage temperature for pumpkins is 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Avoid direct sun and rain, if you can, and bring your pumpkin inside if it looks like temperatures are dropping: “Freezing temperatures damage the plant cells just like they would with any living organism,” he says. “If the pumpkin actually freezes, once it warms up, the skin can soften, which may open it up to … rot.”

But with the right tricks, your pumpkin can remain a treat for much longer — up to 14 days or more. Here’s how it’s done:

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Before You Carve: Dunk it in a Bleach and Water Bath

With your pumpkin still intact, find a bucket or vessel a bit bigger than your gourd. With the pumpkin inside, fill the bucket the rest of the way with a mixture of bleach and water (around 1 to 2 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water). Let the pumpkin soak for 10 minutes or more, moving the floating pumpkin around as needed. After the bleach bath, make sure to let your pumpkin dry completely before digging in with your carving knife.

If you’re not carving your pumpkin, she’s good to go! Put her on the porch and enjoy the spooky season.

But if you are carving… save that bleach water!

After You Carve: Make a Pumpkin Preserving Spray

You can use the same bleach water from your pre-carve bath, or make a fresh mixture with the same ratio (around 1 to 2 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water), but this time, you’ll want to use it to fill a spray bottle. When you’re done carving your Jack-O-Lantern, spray the bleach mixture all over the open surfaces inside of the pumpkin and within the carved sections. Then leave it upside down for a while until it’s fully dry.

You can use your bleach spray every few days periodically to try and keep your pumpkin looking perfect.

Whenever Your Jack Needs a Zhoosh, Give it a Soak

If you see your carved pumpkin start to dry out after a week or so, just give it a soak in a bucket of water overnight (and let it dry thoroughly after) to have your happy jack back!