You don't want a moldy, bug-infested Jack-o'-Lantern to be your scariest Halloween decoration.
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Carved, painted, or simply stacked on your front steps or porch, pumpkins are the quintessential Halloween decoration. But, like all vegetables, gourds eventually decay, and that begs the question: How long do carved pumpkins really last? And is there anything you can do to prolong the life of your creative gourd?

If you don't take the right steps in caring for your pumpkin, they can become a haven for mold, bugs, and other frightful pests. Fortunately, our experts share a few tricks for keeping your prized Jack-o'-Lantern looking fresh throughout the spooky season.

How Long Carved Pumpkins Last

As soon as you carve a pumpkin, the clock starts counting down to its inevitable decline, says Ashley Renne Nsonwu, host of the show Ashley Renne on Smart Healthy Green Living. "You have anywhere from three to five days max before they start to soften and get moldy," she says. That's because once the insides of the pumpkin are exposed to the elements, the rotting process begins.

Source an Unblemished, Local Pumpkin

Make sure you start with the best-looking pumpkin you can find. "Look for ones with the least amount of bruises and blemishes," says Renne Nsonwu. "You'll have better luck if you get them locally. Less transport means less bumping and bruising—and as a bonus, it's more eco-friendly because the pumpkin has a lower carbon footprint!"

Carve Immediately

If you want your pumpkin to last more than five days, Renne Nsonwu says you'll need to make sure you're getting the timing right. "You'll want to get your pumpkin within a week of when you plan to carve it," she says.

Consider the Weather and Your Location

In addition to picking the right pumpkin, factors like weather and geography will impact how long it lasts, according to Kevin Busch, VP of operations of Mr. Handyman, a Neighborly brand. "The colder the climate, the longer your pumpkin will last," he says. That means those who live in areas that are already experiencing chillier temperatures will see their pumpkins remain in good shape longer than those who live further south.

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How to Make a Carved Pumpkin Last Longer

To extend the life of your pumpkin just a little bit more, Renne Nsonwu says you should clean it out well and disinfect it with a solution.

Castile Soap

"Some swear by bleach, but I'm not a fan," she says. "Bleaching your pumpkins means you can't compost them later!" Instead, she says to make a Castile soap spritz, which will delay the decay process.

  1. Combine 1 tablespoon of Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap ($10.79, target.com) with 6 drops of peppermint oil in an 8-ounce spray bottle.
  2. Fill the bottle with water.
  3. Thoroughly spraying your pumpkin inside and out.

Vinegar and Petroleum Jelly

Another method that Busch swears by includes spraying your carved pumpkin down with a white vinegar solution. After you have spritzed on the vinegar, he suggests applying petroleum jelly or vegetable oil to the exposed areas and the interior of your pumpkin. "This will create a barrier that won't allow the pumpkin to dry out, and also protects [it] from external humidity, rain, or other elements that can jumpstart the rotting process," he says.

Skip Carving

Of course, if you want your pumpkin to last throughout the fall, Busch says to skip carving it entirely. "Consider an alternative way of decorating with pumpkins that [doesn't] require any cutting," he says. "Keeping your pumpkin intact is the best way to preserve it longer." He suggests painting a face or design—or applying stick-on embellishments.

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