Whether your spend three minutes or three hours carving your Halloween pumpkin, wouldn't it be nice if it lasted longer before melting into a puddle of mold on your porch?
Never fear, there are plenty of tricks you can use to keep your pumpkin looking stellar all season long.
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In the battle to preserve your Halloween pumpkins, you're fighting both mold and dehydration. Here's how to prevent them from ruining your creations:
Clean. The best way to clean your pumpkin after carving is to use bleach. Bleach kills mold and will prevent it from attacking your pumpkin. You can either completely submerge your carved pumpkin into a solution of three tablespoons bleach to three gallons water, or you can use a spray bottle filled with water and a small amount of bleach to treat the carved areas. Let the pumpkin air dry after bleaching. Interestingly, in an experiment posted on My Science Project, the bleach-treated pumpkin showed only minimal decay even 10 days post-carving.
But if you're worried about wildlife nibbling on your pumpkin later and don't want to go the bleach route to keep them safe, you can try tea tree oil and grapefruit seed extract instead. (And thanks to eagle-eyed reader Ann for pointing out that we should offer an alternative.)
Lubricate. Unless you want your pumpkin to look like a shrunken head, you will also need to apply a water-repellent lubricant to the cut areas to keep them from drying out. Petroleum jelly, vegetable oil and even WD-40 work wonders to keep the moisture in and keep your pumpkin looking good.
Another option is to use a store-bought pumpkin preservative spray like "Pumpkin Fresh," which contains fungicide (to kill the mold) and lubricants (to keep the pumpkin from drying out).
Want to preserve an uncarved pumpkin? Try shining it with floor wax to keep it looking fresh.
But a word to the wise: If you plan to eat your pumpkin after carving, skip the bleach and use a natural lubricant — like veggie oil or olive oil — instead. Carve the pumpkin close to Halloween so that it won't sit out for too long. And carve away any spots that look moldy before you add it to your recipes.