Drying and cleaning gourds for for painting or crafting projects is easy to do yourself at home if you follow a few simple steps.
Dried gourds are a wonderful creative project for kids. From painting smaller gourds as ornaments to using larger gourds as birdhouses. Thankfully we have a gourd farm in our area that we can visit and buy dried gourds. It’s such a fun experience to go out there with the kids and pick from an array of varieties.
Dried gourds make incredible projects for people of all ages. But before the project begins the dried gourds be cleaned and prepped for paint.
As the Gourd Dries
Gourds are left on the vine after the stem and surrounding leaves begin to turn brown. At that time, you can take it off the vine, and give it a wipe down with a damp cloth. Allow it to sit in an open area for several months to a year.
As the gourd dries during that time, it will start to appear gross on the outside. That’s ok and completely normal. If it is not soft, leave it alone — they will turn moldy and discolor, maybe even peel. That’s all part of the drying process.
Once the gourd is completely dry, you can prepare the gourd by cleaning it before you begin your craft project.
How to Clean Gourds
The easiest way to clean dried gourds is to gather them up in a small kiddie pool (or, large kitchen sink). Add a little bleach, and grab a good scrubbie. It’s not a fun job, but I consider it to be a great stress reliever.
I usually clean gourds in my large kitchen sink if I have 5 or less. Anything more than that and I throw them in the kiddie pool in the backyard to soak.
If you are using a kiddie pool, fill it with water and a few cups of bleach or bleach alternative. Allow them to sit for 15-20 minutes, then get to work scrubbing. Throw on some gloves and use your steel wool scrubbie to work away.
If you are using a kitchen sink, fill the sink with water and a half cup of bleach. Throw the gourds in and allow them to soak for 10-15 minutes. Since they won’t entirely submerge, it’s helpful to throw a wet towel on top of them to weigh them down. After you have given them time to soak, use the back of a large cereal spoon or a metal scrubbie to scrub them until they are clean.
Steps to cleaning a dried gourd:
- Soak that gourd in water with a few cups of hydrogen peroxide or bleach for 20-30 minutes. You may need to submerge them by laying a wet towel on top of them to hold them under.
- Put on gloves and a face mask.
Scrub the gourds to remove the skin (use the back of a huge cereal spoon or a wire mesh scrubbie)
- Scrape off stubborn mold
- Dry the gourd, then sand off any leftover skin
After they are clean
Once your gourds are clean, keep them outside until they are good and dry. Only when they are dry can you begin your project – whether painting or using as a birdhouse, or wood working project.
Dried gourds are wonderful for painting projects. Should you want to paint your dried gourds, consider spraying them down with a water based primer first — to prevent bleed-through. Lowe’s and Home Depot offer several different varieties (Kilz is great if you can spot it at your store).
If you are considering leaving your artwork outside (birdhouse perhaps), consider four coats of sealer. A sealer will ensure durability during the hot summer months and wintery winters.
If you don’t grow your own gourds, then you can typically find them already cleaned at a local gourd farm. There are lots of gourd farms across the U.S. — many of them offer free or low cost shipping on gourds that have already been cleaned.
Thanks for this information. Last year I planted and grew gourds for first time. What an experience! I never knew how much the vine would spread, didn’t expect the odor of the vines. I have successfully dried around 36 of the 35 gourds I harvested and ready to begin projects.
That’s awesome, Clara! I planted gourds too and they grew and grew and it was so fun! I’m getting ready to plant them again this year, too. It was such a great experience for my kids!
After a year or so to dry, I scrub them with water and vinegar. The natural color is beautiful so I use boiled linseed oil to seal them.
Hi Sheryl I’m wondering if I do the sealer after painting?
Richard Fiala says
I used different colors of leather dyed since the leather dyes are translucent and you can see the gourds features. After the gourds with the leather dye is dry I sprayed with a clear sealer coat. I made many into birdhouses.
If left inside your home , that gourd will retain its color , but if you place it outside after a few months the sun will fade the color dye and you will have no color on the gourd. I have tried many different sealers but so far the sun still wins. Aaggghhh
Lisa shelton says
The best UV clear coat is Spar Varnish. It helps keep whatever you have under the clear from fading from the sun.
Jo Louise says
Kudos to all of you beginners, myself included. I will definitely put them on a stronger trellis and the do vine out and grows on whatever gets in its path. I’m sure I have pics and would love to see some from all of you. (Y’all) Enjoyed all of the comments and I hope we all can learn from our first experience and get a better crop next year. I saved some seeds from these. My friend looked up this for me, so thank you Jill. Plan on giving some to friends and painting them. Mine are different sizes and shapes. And that I’m thankful. But I want to make bird houses and I thought that was the hours. And I’m sure it’s soil, sun, etc etc has tons to do with it. Ciao
Regarding the comment about odor, What odor? I have grown gourds for years now. Not once have I notice a odor with the vines? The only odor I noticed was as they were drying out and when I cut them open to get the seeds and flakes out, but even then the odor was very subtle. Very curious what odor for the vines?
I’m not sure where you live, but here in the Southwest, we have Buffalo Gourds that emit a foul foul odor (the vines anyways). They are called “stink gourds”. They perform well here and have been grown for years, but the odor is something that would turn an average person off. But.. they are very invasive, so if you grow them, they’ll return repeatedly over the years.
Barb Teets says
I’d really love to find some dried Gourds but I live in Northern Michigan and don’t know where I can buy them already dried maybe you have some ideas, thank you
I sure do. Our Gourd Farm here ships across the U.S. You can buy gourds already dried and cleaned. Here’s the info: https://shop.wuertzfarm.com/main.sc
Thank you for the directions. Looks fairly easy. I will start on it right away and use the cleaned gourds in my crafts.
je voudrais faire des perçages pour faire une lampe dans une calebasse, on me dit que c’est toxique pour la santé , c’est vrai ?
Keenan Neighbors says
Last year I wanted to try and grow some. Well I started too late and I ended up with 1 gourd and I dropped it getting it off the vine and it broke. Fast forward to last spring and I planted Birdhouse and Dipper about 8 plants then I hit them with Miracle-Gro and repeated 3 more times and OMG!! They shot up.out,over and around anything and everything.
Finally this fall I harvested them and they just about wore me out- I had 169 total and I am still working with them as they dry out I bring them inside and up to the attic . I have had a good time and next spring I am going to go full bore with 2 long rows 250ft .yikes!!
Oh my gosh I’m so happy for you!!!! I am going to try again this coming spring and plant more. We had a great time planting last year and I couldn’t grow enough… all my neighbors wanted gourds. So I think I’m going to go full on this spring and do as many as I can and just put my kids in charge of helping me out a little more.
Leather dye fades in the sun. You can use many other products to color gourds. Any thing used on wood works .seal with uv varnish.
Not a real good idea to put in attic. Mold in house never a good idea. Leave out side in open air on pallet is good for air circulation. Weather won’t hurt the. But speed up drying time.
TERESA STARRAK says
I’m a gourd painter too and I buy them from a local grower. I have also discovered that a little Downey
in the bleach water will loosen the dirt and make it easier to clean. Not as much elbow grease needed. 😉
Teresa, that’s such a great tip. I never knew that! Thanks for leaving a comment to let me know that!
Rosario Montero Rojas says
Los felicito a todos por iniciarse en este arte de las calabazas .Es muy divertido, sobre todo cultivarlas.
En mi pais se da muy bien la agricultura es muy facil su cultivo. Es mi primer año y recogi mas de 300 calabazas. Lo malo fue que perdi muchas porque no secaron bien.
Les recomiendo ver videos en youtuve o en la aplicacion de pinterest. Encontramos en estos sitios maravillosas artesanias que se pueden hacer con estas calabazas. Gracias por compartir todas estas experiencias.
Debra Gragan says
I just soaked my gourds for the first time and used bleach and downy. I also used an oyster knife to scrape the gourds and this worked beautifully. Thanks for all the information you have shared. It certainly is a great help for us newbies. Now to start sealing them and painting them for using as bird houses. Thanks again.
Debra – do you have an etsy store? Let me know when and if you get done and sell them. I’d love to buy one from you. I recently moved to a new home and can’t garden at my current location… and so I am a bit sad that my gourd projects have to go on hold! I’d love to buy one from you. Thanks 😉
Do I need to scrape out the inside of the gourd if I’m only painting the outside?
Definitely not. You can just paint the outside. I just used mine for birdhouses so I did clean out the insides … the inside flesh will “die off” eventually.
How much are these gourds selling for cleaned and dried please.
Yvonne – completely depends! If you are selling them clean and dried… without a design (painted and finished), then $10-15… I have a Gourd farm about an hour from me here in Arizona; check out their site and prices to get a feel for what they sell theirs (clean & dried) for. It might help.
If you are painting them and making birdhouses, etc. then obviously the price goes up — as that accounts for labor/time. Etsy is a great place to look for that price point. Hope that helps.
Gary P Switak says
After cleaning a gourd, how can you get the dark areas of the gourd lighter for your transparent dyes to look better.
Gia Stein says
Your instructions are wonderful. Most helpful and ensures success of my gourd art project. Thank you!,,
Can you plant the seeds the next spring that come out of the gourds this year?
You sure can, in fact, I did that. You’ll want to make sure you really dry out the seeds. I spread the seeds out on a cookie sheet and place in the sun to ensure they dry out as much as possible. Then I tuck them in a paper sack until the next spring.