Whether your fall decor ideas include playful carvings – or you’re looking for an uncarved finish (on your mantelpiece or tablescape) – all pumpkins are sadly subject to natural rotting. And while uncarved pumpkins do last longer than their carved counterparts, it is still necessary to plan to avoid an eroded staple piece before your Halloween festivities. 

How long does a carved or uncarved pumpkin last? 

‘Carved pumpkins have quite a short shelf life, especially if you live in a warmer climate. They will typically begin decomposing within a week of being carved and left out of the fridge,’ warns Jenna Moran, the founder and creative director of Whimsy and Spice (opens in new tab). However, in some cases, they will only survive as little as three days.  Uncarved pumpkins can survive for much longer. In many cases, they last for at least 10-12 weeks, meaning you can likely use your pumpkins beyond Halloween decor.  If you’re wondering, ‘what can I do with uncarved pumpkins?’ after your celebrations, there are several uses for you to try. For a tasty kitchen garden idea, Jenna also recommends reincorporating pumpkin and squash recipes beyond pumpkin pie into your Thanksgiving meal: ‘slice it open, remove the orange flesh, and use this to create a delicious pumpkin pie,’ she says.

How do you keep carved pumpkins from rotting?

In the days before Halloween, you may be wondering about the best time to carve – and the easiest ways to preserve its life. ‘As soon as you cut into the pumpkin, it speeds up the decomposing process. Cleaning it cuts down on the number of bacteria that eventually lead to molding,’ Alexandra says.   After carving your pumpkin, the expert suggests mixing one tablespoon of castile soap [like this one (opens in new tab)] with one cup of water in a spray bottle. Then spray the inside and cut parts of your pumpkin with the solution before drying with a paper towel.  Finally, ‘pour olive oil into a bowl and use a paintbrush to paint the olive oil onto the inside and cut parts of your pumpkin,’ Alexandra explains. This method should encourage your pumpkin to last slightly longer around your Halloween celebrations. 

How do you prolong carved pumpkin life?

The method above is often an effective way of keeping your pumpkin alive. However,  horticulturist and botanical designer Nathan Heinrich (opens in new tab) offers another method that could make your carved pumpkins ’last for up to a month.’ To do so, you should mix one tablespoon of bleach with one gallon of water and pour the solution into a spray bottle before spraying it inside your carved pumpkins. You can swap bleach for white vinegar, but it’s slightly less effective. ‘Once your bleach spray has dried, pray olive oil or cooking spray on the inside of your pumpkin and let dry in the sun for an hour,’ Nathan says. ‘Repeating this technique weekly will keep your carved pumpkins looking fresh by preventing mold and rot while keeping them hydrated.’

How do you keep uncarved pumpkins from rotting?

Keeping your uncarved pumpkins from rotting involves quite the opposite. ‘Instead of washing, Alexandra urges you to keep a ‘dirt’ layer over your uncarved pumpkin. ‘To preserve your uncarved pumpkin, do not clean it,’ she says. ‘The dirt is a layer that protects uncarved pumpkins from bacteria. Exposing it to water speeds up the decomposing process.’ It is also a good idea to keep it out of direct sunlight and away from water exposure. 

Does Hairspray keep pumpkins from rotting?

Yes, solutions such as hairspray and vinegar can help the carved pumpkin last a bit longer.  ‘Hairspray is known for keeping away bugs, but you can’t do much with the pumpkin after that,’ explains Carl from Sweet New Earth (opens in new tab). Meanwhile, vinegar is going to keep away mold ‘for both carved and uncarved pumpkins.’ Therefore, whether you’re looking for traditional, carved Halloween decor – or easy no-carve pumpkin ideas, hairspray could come in handy this season.