Lengthen the lifespan of your carved pumpkins this season.

Quentin Bacon

Nothing signifies the arrival of fall quite like the first signs of seasonal decor like colorful wreaths, rustic centerpieces, preserved foliage, and—of course—pumpkins. It’s hard to find a porch not decorated with pumpkins and gourds of various shapes, sizes, and colors. With the turning of the leaves comes one of our favorite activities: pumpkin carving. Watch this easy tutorial for step-by-step instructions for picking the best pumpkin, using the right tools to carve it, and keeping it fresh.

One of the most common problems we run into with carved pumpkins is how quickly they rot. Carving a pumpkin is hard work, especially if you get creative with festive templates or unique designs. There’s nothing more disappointing than walking outside to find a droopy, rotted jack-o’-lantern sitting on your porch before trick-or-treaters arrive on Halloween night. Follow these easy tips for preserving your carved pumpkins this year.

  • Pick out the best-looking pumpkin you can find. Avoid choosing one that’s already beginning to go bad.
  • Avoid carving the pumpkin too early. The average lifespan is about a week, so you can’t expect a pumpkin carved on October 1 to last all the way until Halloween.
  • Rather than cutting a hole on the top of the pumpkin, cut a hole on the bottom. This way, excess moisture will flow out of the bottom rather than collecting into a puddle.
  • Make sure every single piece of pulp is scraped out of your pump. Pulp remnants will attract unwanted bugs and bacteria, which accelerate the rotting process. Save the seeds—roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious.
  • Soak the carved pumpkin in a tub of cold water overnight to keep it hydrated. Add a little bit of bleach to the water, which helps prevent mold. Dry off the pumpkin as soon as you remove it.
  • Lastly, rub petroleum jelly all over the edges of the pumpkin. The jelly acts as a seal and holds in moisture.

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Another surefire way to preserve your pumpkin and prevent rotting is to not carve it at all. Try these no-carve decorating and painting ideas that work for pumpkins display either indoors or out.