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How to Extend the Life of Your Pumpkin

Read on for tips on how to keep your jack-o'-lantern bright through Halloween.

We know how quickly your orange porch decor can turn to mush. Keep your pumpkins looking great all season long with these simple tips.

Pick a healthy pumpkin

Be sure to inspect the pumpkin before you purchase it. Avoid any that have dents, bruises, discoloration, or soft spots, as these are indicators of an unhealthy pumpkin. Also, try to go to a local pumpkin patch instead of the store. The shipping process can often damage pumpkins.

Don't carve it too soon

Once you get your pumpkin home, try to resist carving it if Halloween is more than a week away. The skin on the pumpkin acts as a protective layer for the inside, so the second you cut it open and expose it to bacteria, oxidation, and insects, the breakdown begins.

Clean it before carving

Just as with any other fruit—yes it is a fruit—wipe the exterior clean before use and be mindful of the dropping temperatures at night. If it is a particular chilly evening, bring it inside to avoid freezing. It's also a good idea to keep it out of direct sunlight.

Clean out ALL the fleshy insides

When you finally carve the pumpkin, be sure to clean out all the insides properly. Whether you are using a carving kit, the age-old ice-cream-scooper method, or just your bare hands, be precise. Leftover insides will attract insects and speed up the deterioration process.

Keep pests away

Rotting isn't the only way that a pumpkin can deteriorate before the trick-or-treaters come round. To squirrels and other animals your pumpkin is a feast rather than decor! This Old House senior editor Michelle Brunner puts hot sauce on her pumpkins before putting them outside to keep critters away.

Soak it in bleach

There are several ways to preserve and protect your pumpkin once it is cut open. One popular option is to soak it in bleach (1 tablespoon of bleach per quart of water) for about 20 minutes.

The bleach kills any bacteria hanging out on your pumpkin. Can't find a bucket large enough? You can also spray or use a paintbrush to cover all exposed surfaces on the interior and exterior with the solution. Let the pumpkin air dry or blot it dry before placing it outside. This should keep your pumpkin looking good for about two weeks, but the results will vary depending on your pumpkin's environment.

Try a bleach alternative

If you'd like to avoid using chemicals on your pumpkin, try peppermint dish soap as a natural alternative. Dilute one tablespoon of the soap in a quart of water and spray inside your cleaned-out pumpkin. It is a natural antifungal, and the smell isn't too bad either.