How to Preserve a Jack-o’-Lantern

How to Preserve a Jack-o’-Lantern
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Last week, my kids selected a couple of nice large pumpkins from the local pumpkin patch here in Studio City, CA. They are eager to start carving them, but in my experience jack-o’-lanterns begin to rot just a few days after they are cut, so I’m encouraging my girls to wait until a few days before Halloween. I don’t think they’ll be able to hold out much longer, however. So I went online to find out how to prevent fungus and mold from growing like crazy on exposed jack-o’-lanterns.

If you search Google for “how to preserve a jack-o’-lantern” you’ll get literally dozens of different preservation techniques. Here were just a few recommendations I came across:

Spraying or soaking the jack-o’-lantern inside and out with:


Lemon juice


Athletes foot spray


Water/bleach mixture

Acrylic spray

White glue

Commercial pumpkin preserving solutions

(Or some combination of the above.)

Others suggested putting the jack-o’-lantern in the freezer.

Surprisingly, I didn’t find much in the way of tests that compared the different preservation techniques side-by-side. I found just one experiment from 2006, which compared the preservation qualities of white glue, acrylic spray, Vaseline, bleach, and Pumpkin Fresh (a commercial preservation product). It turned out that the control jack-o’-lantern (the pumpkin that received no treatment) fared just as well as the bleach- and Pumpkin Fresh- treated jack-o’-lanterns.

In the conclusion to the experiment, the amateur jack-o’-lantern scientist wrote, “Our findings in this experiment were surprising to us. It seemed that some of the so-called preservation methods recommended for pumpkins actually accelerated their decay. This was particularly evident in the white glue treatment. We suspect that the glue may have provided a medium that nourished the mold and encouraged it to flourish.”

Testing different jack-o’-lantern preservation techniques sounds like it would be an excellent project for someone to undertake. For now, I think I will go with the bleach preservation method. Happy Carving!

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Mark Frauenfelder is the founding Editor-in-Chief of Make: magazine, and the founder of the popular Boing Boing blog.

View more articles by Mark Frauenfelder