How to preserve pumpkins so they last all season

My porch, with my pumpkins in all their preserved glory.

Last year, I shared my trick for how to preserve a pumpkin on TikTok, and I was surprised to see how many people commented that they’d never heard of my method!

I started preserving my pumpkins a while back for a few reasons:

One, in true basic fashion, I like to decorate for fall early, like right after Labor Day early. Which means all of my fall porch decor needs to last until at least Halloween, which is about 8 weeks.

Second, I’ve found that the squirrels in my area are just ruthless when it comes to pumpkins. Ruthless I tell ya. They have zero regard for my precise and beautiful styling, and instead burrow their way into the middle of my pumpkins as soon as they get the chance.

It was really this that made me start to preserve my pumpkins – I was sick of throwing them out just a few weeks after I’d bought them. I also tried a number of other tricks that are supposed to keep squirrels away from pumpkins, like spraying them with hairspray, and spraying them with hot sauce, and neither worked for me.

So how do I preserve pumpkins?

My method for preserving pumpkins is very easy. You can watch my video on how to preserve pumpkins below or skip it and keep reading for a short and sweet overview.

@kaitmadden How to spray paint fall pumpkins so they last longer ? #pumpkindiy #pumpkins #frontporch #fallporch ♬ Fancy Like – Walker Hayes

How to preserve a pumpkin step-by-step

  1. Wipe it down. Wipe the pumpkin down so there’s no dirt or dust on it. No need to scrub it, just use a damp towel and give it a good wipe. Then let it dry.
  2. Spray it with spray enamel. I use Rustoleum Clear Gloss Spray Enamel. I’ve never used any other brand or finish. I’m sure they’re all fine but I can only vouch for the Rustoleum kind. I usually give it a couple of coats to make sure the whole pumpkin is covered.
  3. Let it dry. I let my pumpkins dry for about an hour, though they will be dry to the touch in a few minutes, just to make sure they’re nice and cured before putting them on my steps. I put my pumpkins on concrete and stone steps, but if you’re putting your pumpkins on a wood surface, I might wait a little longer just to be sure the enamel is good and cured so it won’t come off on the wood.

Also – it’s important to note that spray enamel should ideally be used outside, or in a well-ventilated area with a respirator. You don’t want to be huffing this stuff.

Does preserving pumpkins actually work?

One question I got a lot when I first shared this pumpkin preservation trick is,’ this sounds cool and all, but does preserving a pumpkin with enamel actually work?’ And it does! Spraying pumpkins with enamel not only kept my them from rotting for two months, it also kept squirrels away completely, which was a huge change from past years when they were eaten in just a few weeks.

For proof that the trick works, I filmed another video of what the pumpkins looked like right before I threw them out. I sprayed the pumpkins in early September, and I threw them away in November. As an experiment, and because I was lazy, when I added a few more pumpkins to our porch setup later on, I left them au natural, and then I compared the two in the video before I got rid of them.

@kaitmadden An update on my pumpkins! The trick works ?? #halloweenathome #pumpkins #homehacks #scarystories #halloweentreats #homeproject #frontporchdecor ♬ Adams Family Theme Song – Halloween DJ's

You can see in my video that the pumpkins that were sprayed had almost no rotting, while the one that I didn’t spray was swarming with flies and completely rotten. You can also see that the sprayed look a bit glossier than the first pumpkin, which wasn’t sprayed.

Can you compost a preserved pumpkin?

The one thing I don’t like about preserving pumpkins is that, once you do it, you can’t compost them. We compost all of our family’s food waste, so I don’t love that I have to throw these away. The enamel makes the pumpkins unfit for composting. It’s also not a good idea to leave them out for animals to eat.

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