Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we earn a commission when you purchase through one of these links.
Before I begin the tutorial on how to clean gourds for crafts, I want to tell you a little about them. I have been working with gourds since the mid-’80s, and they are still one of my favorite painting surfaces. The gourd is in the pumpkin family, and some are edible. Unlike a pumpkin, a gourd dries making the surface wood-like. Drying time varies on conditions like humidity.
Gourds are native to Africa, and the bottle gourd is thought to be the oldest plant domesticated by humans. They have been used as musical instruments, masks, pipes, canteens, sponges, water jugs, flower pots, and the list goes on. Gourds for birdhouses are just one of the popular uses. They are popular in American country primitives and farmhouse decor including Painted Santas, Christmas ornaments, used as doll heads, wood-burned and painted baskets, lamps, and more!
Growing Gourds for Crafts
Gourd seeds should be planted in the early spring after any threat of frost. The plant looks much like a pumpkin or squash vine. Growing them along a fence or garden trellis gives the best-growing results. A gourd loves sunshine, water, and good drainage.
When the vine and leaves begin drying out, it is about time for harvest. Check the vines for moisture because they can look brown on the outside and still have moisture on the inside. To ensure the gourd is ready for picking, you should wait until the stem on which the gourd is attached is hard or brittle and dry.
Green gourds should never be stored inside your home to dry because of the many types of mold that grow on them during the drying process. The gourd dries the quickest if it gets air and sunshine. It will also dry stored in a shed with large gourds hanging on the wall or from beams and smaller ones spread out on a surface. Once dry store the gourds in a container to prevent them from being chewed on by rodents that want the seeds inside.
Several types of mold grow on the gourd, making it look like it is decaying. So, don’t throw your drying gourd away because it is black and nasty looking…that’s just the gourd doin’ its thing. Spoiled gourds are soft or sunken in.
How to Clean Gourds Step by Step
I am cleaning egg gourds for this tutorial because the size will be easy to work with. You will use the same process to clean all sizes. See the nasty mold I was talking about? Even that white color you see on the gourds is mold!
Cover the gourds with a solution of hot water and bleach. Approximately 1/4 cup of bleach per gallon of water will do…I am very specific in my application; I add the amount of water I want, then pour in the bleach till it smells good and bleachie! (If it is a sunny, hot summer day, you can tie your wet gourds inside a plastic bag along with wet towels and set them in direct sunlight instead of using this soaking process.)
While soaking, cover the gourds with an “old” towel, making sure it is wet. If you are cleaning bigger gourds, you will probably need to weigh them down so that as much of the gourd is underwater as possible. I let the gourds soak for at least an hour, then check them to see how soft the mold has become and how easily it will come off.
When soaked long enough, you should be able to just wipe some of the mold off. The gourd will have to be scrubbed to remove all the mold. Use something like those green Scotch pads or a copper Choreboy. I don’t use steel wool because particles of steel can actually imbed in the surface of the gourd and cause it to turn brown. In the photo I used a blue scrubber similar to the Scotch pads.
You may need to use a knife to scrape off stubborn areas. The soaking loosens the build-up some, but some spots need a little extra attention. Gently scrape the surface with the edge of the knife’s blade. Don’t dig into the surface, or you’ll leave marks. Rinse the gourds after all the mold has been removed. I add a little bleach to my rinse water…you could say I’m a little paranoid when it comes to the mold!!
Now, they are ready to lay out to dry. Make sure the gourds are completely dry before using. They can be put in the oven on low to speed up the process. Be sure and keep an eye on them; gourds do burn. Voila, the gourds are pretty, clean… and now the real fun can begin.
Thanks to Judy of Holly Ridge Creations some of her creations include hand-painted gourds like the Santa pictured above.