How to Keep a Pumpkin From Rotting

How to Keep a Pumpkin From Rotting

Every fall my family goes out and buys a few pumpkins to decorate, carve, and just sit on our front porch.  I just love pumpkins!  I love the look of them, the smell of them, and the nostalgia they bring with them.

Every year I keep them till they rot.  Some years it’s longer than others but last year I ended up keeping them a looooong time.   Last year, I was given a handful of baby pumpkins after a fall festival.  They were just going to be thrown away and I just couldn’t bear the thought.  I brought them home and had high hopes of decorating them in some adorable way…but that never happened.  They sat out in my garage for a few weeks before I decided to try this little experiment of mine on them.

Here are the 7 ways I tried to preserve my pumpkins:

  1. I soaked one in a water/bleach solution a few times.
  2. I covered one in Vaseline {Check out my 15 Beauty Uses for Vaseline here}.
  3. I soaked one in a water/vinegar solution a few times.
  4. I sprayed one with polyurethane.
  5. I covered one in vegetable oil.
  6. I sprayed one with furniture polish.
  7. I did nothing to the last one.

Can you guess which one lasted NINE whole months?  It may have lasted longer but my husband refused to keep those disgusting pumpkins in our garage any longer and threw them out {Who could blame him!}.

I’m so excited to tell you the results but I really wish I could hear your predictions first.

Do me a favor, will you?  Will you comment below with your initial guess?  

Drum roll please…

The winning pumpkin was the one that was soaked in a bleach/water mixture!

My perfect pumpkin picking tips:

  • – Shop locally – They’ll last longer and you’re supporting a local business.  Win-win!
  • – Check for Marks – The more blemishes a pumpkin has to start with the higher the chances it will decay quickly.
  • – Feel for Soft Spots – Feel around the pumpkin and see if there are any bruises or soft spots on the pumpkin.

Soaking and Sealing:

Soak your pumpkin in a solution of water and bleach.  The measurement isn’t an exact science but somewhere around a few caps to a gallon should be good.  Leave your pumpkin soaking for 20-30 minutes before removing.  Wipe dry and carve as you normally would {or check out these 8 Elegant No-Cut Ways to Decorate a Pumpkin}.  After you carve your pumpkin add your water/bleach mixture to a spray bottle and spray the open surfaces, including the inside.  This will kill the bacteria that ‘s present and will help prevent it from rotting.

That’s it!  Have fun enjoying your pumpkins for as long as you can this year!

If you liked this post please pin it on Pinterest so others can find it and follow my Pumpkins, Pumpkins, & More Pumpkins Pinterest board for more pumpkin inspiration!

If you’ll be decorating pumpkins with kids check out these cute kits!

Cinderella's Carriage Pumpkin Decorating Kit

Cinderella’s Carriage Pumpkin Decorating Kit

Elsa Pumpkin Decorating Kit

Elsa Pumpkin Decorating Kit

Pumpkin Sticker Decorating Kit

Pumpkin Sticker Decorating Kit

About Ashley

Ashley is very happily married and the mother to a beautiful little girl and handsome little boy. She is the main voice behind Embracing Homemaking.


  1. We always spray our pumpkin with disinfectant cleaner with bleach – and it lasts really well too! Must be bleach is the key!

  2. I never would have guessed water & bleach would have worked! Does the pumpkin smell like bleach?

  3. Wow! I had no idea this would work. I am SO going to be doing it this Fall.

  4. Our pumpkins go bad every single year and this year I was thinking I want to decorate one and share how I did it on the blog… I was just worried about it going bad. Thanks to these tips I don’t have to worry, I would have never have thought using bleach and water together would keep a pumpkin “good” for so long!

  5. Thanks for the tips – I can’t wait to start buying our pumpkins and I do want them to last for awhile. This is some great info

  6. Well that is interesting, I never would have guessed. I do think it’s hysterical that you kept all of those rotting pumpkin all that time though.

  7. We’ve never done anything with ours. I know what we are doing this year!

  8. This is interesting! I wouldn’t think of bleach as a preservative.

  9. I have never heard of this, but WOW. I learned something new! 🙂

  10. I grew up soaking mine. My grandma taught me that trick.

  11. This post couldn’t have been more timely because I was about to leave to go grab a few pumpkins and start fall decorating. My pumpkins usually start to rot too soon and I end up buying more before Halloween! So I’m definitely gong to try this. I wonder if it will deter the squirrels though?

  12. That is really interesting! I can’t believe it lasted that long!

  13. What a great tip!!! I had no idea to do this and am going to try it for sure this year.

  14. I’ve never heard of that before. That’s a long time to last without rotting!

  15. Oh how cool! My son always gets so sad when we have to throw ours away, I am definitely trying this and hopefully keeping them longer this year!

  16. I am absolutely astonished to learn that it was the water/bleach solution that preserved your pumpkin. I guessed the polyurethane spray.

  17. we had a white pumpkin that my son got ,freshly picked from a local farm, that lasted 2 YEARS! and i didn’t do anything to it. it was inside the house, though. so, that probably made a difference.

  18. What a fun experiment!! I think I need to use a bleach/water mixture on my pumpkins this year! They always seem to rot so fast :/ I’m so pinning this post for reference. Thanks for joining in our #PinUP Pin Party, hope to see you again… there’s a new party every Friday!

  19. Question. I know it says soak than carve but do you gut the pumpkin before soaking it?

    • I wouldn’t. I would soak the entire pumpkin before doing anything with it and then after gutting, carving, etc. I would spray the bleach and water mixture into the insides and cut pieces. I hope that helps! 🙂

  20. That makes so much sense! When I buy fruits and vegetable to eat, I always soak them in a bowl of water with apple cider vinegar, then dry them before storing in the refrigerator. Even strawberries last longer with this treatment. I think the vinegar helps keep mold and bacteria from developing.

  21. Is there something you do to the tree slice to preserve it?

  22. First thought? Bleach. That’ll kill anything.

  23. I too never would have guessed the bleach solution, good to know for pumpkin carving this year. One question do you need to reapply the bleach regularly, or is the soak then spray after carving one time enough to make her last?

  24. Isn’t bleach flamable? So you wouldn’t be able to put a candle in it right?

  25. Thanks for the tips! I’ll definitely have to try it out this halloween! Also do you think that soaking the pumpkins outside would have any affect on the inside like if I wanted to cook the pumpkin seeds? And also is bleach flammable? Would you be able to light a candle on the inside?

  26. Do not use a gallon of bleach! 5% solution is plenty. That’s 9 oz (a little over 1 cup) to a gallon (1 gallon = 128 oz. 1 c = 8oz). Bleach is not harmless to you or the environment. Be careful and read the label!

  27. Pinning this for when I (hopefully) harvest mine next season!
    In my country we want to keep pumpkins to eat though… do you reckon this would spoil the pumpkin for human consumption?

  28. Who would have guessed? I would have thought a wax would have kept it longer. What a different between all the pumpkins too.

    Thanks for sharing your Great Ideas with us at Project Inspire{d}!

  29. Do you have to carve the pumpkin I have a green one with a heart shape growth on it made of the same thing the stem is. I have a picture on FB don’t know hoe to post it here for you. Any way I don’t want o carve it just preserve it.

  30. I honestly thought it would be the one you sprayed with polyurethane! I must test this myself!

  31. This is GREAT info. thanks so much for doing the research for us! I’m featuring you tonight at, thanks for linking up to DIY Inspired.

  32. I’m so grateful to find out how to persevere pumpkins. Fall is my favorite time of year and you just made it possible for me to enjoy it longer. You’re a dear! Thanks for letting pumpkins rot in your garage! A shout out to all the men who deal with us who “just want the world to be a prettier place”. I will teach my daughter and you teach yours and the world will be prettier for years to come!

  33. I almost thought the Vaseline rub would have made it last but then I thought about Christmas trees. When we had real trees we always used a bleach mixture to keep it longer. We got rid of many trees that we not so bad well after NY.

  34. First guess was the water/bleach solution. Glad to see it worked! 🙂

  35. It makes sense. When bleach breaks down, it becomes sodium chloride, and sodium chloride is salt. Salt is a preservative.

    • Lora, Where did the sodium come from?I can tell you why the bleach that kills the bacteria preserves the pumpkin. Bacteria is the key element that decomposes or biodegrades organic materials. This is called composting. The bacteria require oxygen and water to survive.

  36. If you live in a very dry area, after you kill all the bacteria with bleach, cover cut surfaces with vasoline so it doesn’t dry out.

  37. Would spraying with the bleach solution work as well? I’m asking because some of our pumpkins are huge!

  38. My answer was Vegetable oil .

    • I’ve always use vegetable oil in the past, and it really makes the colors vibrant and shiny…but I’m not sure it makes them last that much longer.

  39. Awesome advice, thanks so much!

    I think those rotting pumpkins would make great “Zombie Pumpkins”…

  40. last year I bought a pumpkin. I left it in the kitchen for 7 months I rotated it once a week it was moldy on the outside but it was still in time I did nothing to it.I left it inside with a temperature of 65 degrees 78 degrees.and it came out perfect all that was left was the shell and the seeds inside It was beautiful.I still have it and I’m going to paint it to its original color

  41. Thank you for this information!! I will be doing this to my pumpkins!!

  42. when would you carve a pumpkin using the preservation method if you wanted it to last until Halloween?

  43. PrisKillaRiot says

    With the bleach solution, can you still light a candle in the jack-o-lantern and not have any scared of fire?

  44. Will the bleach and water still work on an already dressed up pumpkin?

  45. I bet the pumpkin you did nothing to lasted the longest! I think this because right now I have a 13-month-old pumpkin, never carved, on our porch. I took it in last November, used it as a decoration for table through Christmas, and left it on the sideboard till September, when I put it back outside for harvest/Hallowe’en decor. I am planting seeds from that pumpkin next spring! Whatever odd squash or pumpkin I get may be carrying long-lasting genes.

  46. Does the bleach solution work on on other rotten things (like attitudes)? Just kidding. Happy Thanksgiving.

  47. I have had a pumpkin for 6 months now and it’s still good….is that normal for some?

  48. Wonder how long the polyurethane lasted. I’d rather use that than bleach water. I’ve never had an untreated pumpkin last inside or outside

  49. I would like to know if any of you ever used Hair Spay after Bleaching the Carved Pumpkin and if so did it work?

  50. Has anybody lit a candle in their pumpkins after soaking with bleach? I know the poster has shared information from a website about bleach not being flammable, but some gases are released when heating bleach. I’ve already soaked the pumpkins in bleach but not sprayed yet and quite hesitant as I’d like to put candles in them. Any help would be great!

  51. Hey Shane,

    Michaels sells the lights that go in them as well as the rotating light–all you do is sit the pumpkin on it. I’m not sure about using candles as I just dunked mine in bleach water after carving. I would play it safe and buy the lights.

  52. Yes u can put a candle in the pumpkin u soaked with bleach I have a candle in mine right now. But bad news is my pumpkin has mold on it and a mushy place. I soaked in water and bleach 2 hrs. Rubbed with vaseline and now 3 days later going bad!!!

  53. Allison Beal says

    I too did a bleach/water bath with my home grown pumpkins this past fall, 2016. I teach kindergarten and took in one of my pumpkins as a classroom decoration. As I packed up my classroom for summer vacation, the pumpkin came home with me, in excellent condition! I am shocked that it looks fresh!

  54. With a mixture of lemon juice and wate (half – half) I had good results, I’ll try with beach and water this year.


  55. I had actually heard about the bleech water solution so I was pretty sure that was it, but I mostly needed to know the concentration to use. Thank you so much

  56. I tried to soak the pumpkin in a bleach solution but the pumpkin just floated no matter how I tried to weight it down. I can’t stand there and hold it down for 20 minutes–what did you use to hold it down? Or did you just spray the pumpkin? Do you spray the inside after it is carved? Thanks.

    • I held the small ones down but for larger ones I would just soak and rotate if possible to another side for a little while. I would spray inside as well to keep the bacteria from growing. Thanks for asking!

  57. Peter Uritz says

    I don’t know how it can be but I have a 20-30 lb. pumpkin that I grew and harvested over 14 months ago and still to this day is showing no signs of decomposition!! A few years ago I had one that didn’t rot until 13 months after harvest and was amazed by that…. this one though is really blowing my mind ! Going on 15 months strong !!!

  58. You said the winner was soaked in a water/bleach solution a few times. How often was this done and over what period of time? I have some uncut pumpkins I’m trying to last until Thanksgiving in 2 weeks and I’m soaking now but trying to decide if I should do another round or 2 of soaking between now and then. Thanks!

  59. My first guess: The one with no treatment did the best?

  60. Maybe you could update this post? Bleach is harmful to the wildlife that may snack on it. How about a solution with a mixture of vinegar instead?

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