Carved pumpkins look their best one to two days after carving, and rarely look good after seven days. It’s best to wait until October 24th, but if you just can’t, here are some tips to keeping your pumpkin designs fresh longer.
Pumpkins begin decomposing from harmless bacteria and fungi in the air and on your hands. To avoid transferring bacteria to the pumpkin, first wash your hands well with soap and water or a hand sanitizer. You’ll also want to make sure your carving tools are clean. Then wipe the outside of the pumpkin down with a 10% bleach solution before making the first cut.
Once carved, you can keep your pumpkin carving fresh for up to a week by wiping the inside and cut areas with bleach or spraying with a household cleaning spray that includes bleach daily. Be sure to keep the liquid from pooling in the bottom or under your pumpkin as this can speed-rot. Then give those areas a thin coating of petroleum jelly to further preserve the pumpkin carvings.
Carved pumpkins decline the fastest in warm weather. It’s best to keep them out of direct sunlight and move them into a garage, cool basement, or a refrigerator when temperatures exceed 70°F. If your climate is humid or it is rainy, you should dry off and refrigerate your carved pumpkins at night. Freezing temperatures also speed decay, so move them to a protected location when temperatures outside are below 32ºF.
If a pumpkin starts to prematurely shrivel or get moldy, revive it by soaking it in a bucket of water with a disinfecting solution of two teaspoons of bleach for every gallon of water.
To light up your pumpkin carving for more than one night, use a battery-operated candle or small flashlight instead of a candle. This will prevent soot and heat damage that could shorten the pumpkin's lifespan.