How to Clean Small Ornamental Gourds for use as Christmas Tree Ornaments

By Kim "Gordie" Carver in Art Tutorials > Other Tutorials

In my previous article I shared several important tips for safely carving gourds. With those tips in mind, let’s get started on a gourd or two!

Today, we’re going to clean and prep a couple of gourds for our next project—making Christmas tree ornaments.

You may find that you already have everything you need to get the job done. All it takes is dish soap (Dawn is what I use), warm water, a copper scrubby, at least one dry ornamental gourd, and a dish towel.


You won’t be cutting into the gourd at all since it’s going to be a hanging ornament, so I’ll only cover how to clean the outer shell.

How to clean a gourd

Fill a small bin with soap and water and thoroughly soak your dish towel in the sudsy water. Submerge the gourd to get it wet, then take your dish towel and without wringing it out fold it in half and put it on top of the wet gourd.

Let it sit for a minute or two before you turn the gourd over and put the towel over it again. Wait another couple of minutes. This will help soften the mold and dirt on the outer shell, making it easier to remove.

Take the towel and set it aside. Now, with the copper scrubby begin lightly scrubbing every inch of the gourd making sure to get off every bit of mold, skin, and dirt.

If your gourd has a lot of blackish areas on the shell like the gourd on left in my photo, you can try adding a little bleach to the water and letting it soak a bit longer. (The bleach may lighten it considerably, or even get rid of those black marks completely.)

As you scrub, rinse the gourd frequently under cold water. Even if you can’t see any dirt or mold clinging to the shell, your fingers should be able to feel if there is anything left on there—once you start, you’ll know what I mean.

The gourd’s skin will probably look white or yellowish. Your fingers can usually feel the difference between the cleaned shell and shell with skin left on it. (You will have to remove your gloves though to feel any skin left on the shell.)

Because the gourd soaked for a little bit, the shell might have gotten a bit soft. Hold the gourd lightly in your hand so you don’t inadvertently crack the shell or puncture a hole in it. These small ornamental gourds have a thin, fairly weak shells and it doesn’t take much to break them, especially when they are wet.

Please note that if you are going to clean more than one, let no more than a few soak while you are cleaning one. Too many soaking at one time will cause them to get too soft before you can work on them. I usually have no more than three soaking while I work on one.

Once your gourd is completely cleaned, just put it in a dish strainer to air dry.

Not too hard, right? Make sure to come back for my next tutorial where I’ll show you how to engrave and decorate your ornamental gourds with a Walnut Hollow wood burning tool—just in time for the holidays!


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