Whether you're cleaning gourds to paint on or preparing gourds to provide a little shelter for the birds, here are 4 simple steps to follow.

Cleaning Gourds Part 1

A cleaning solution of 1 part bleach mixed with 10 parts water is recommended.

Dunk the dried gourd in the solution to get it wet all over. With a medium bristle brush or a kitchen scrubby, you can then rub off all the mold and mildew.

If it's stubborn, re-dunk and scrub some more. Let it dry thoroughly... oh, and try not to be in a hurry. Cleaning gourds  requires some patience. 

When you're 100% sure it's dry, you can cut holes in it or carve it any way you like. (There's more information on how to cut a gourd further down this page.)

If the gourd is going outdoors, then make sure you apply Thompson's Water Seal to the inside by pouring some in and swirling it around to cover.

Then brush the water seal all over the exterior and any cut edges. Skip the water sealer for gourds used indoors.

Here's a quick tip: You may want to suspend the gourds by tying string to the stem and hanging them out of the way while they dry.


Gently sand the gourd with 100-150 grit sandpaper.

Just do a light sanding to provide some "tooth" over the smooth surface.


If you're going to use the gourd outside as a nesting box or birdhouse then use a good quality exterior latex primer. Only prime the areas you'll paint on.

Don't apply primer to the interior. If the gourd will be used indoors, just skip the primer. Let dry completely. Now it's ready for decorative painting!


After cleaning gourds, drying them and painting them... whew... it's time to protect your hard work!

Best thing to do is to apply 2 to 3 coats of a high quality exterior gloss varnish for any gourd used outdoors. For indoor use, just varnish with your preferred acrylic-based varnish.

Cutting Gourds

Gourds must be cleaned before cutting can begin. 

When you cut into a dried gourd wear a face mask... the resulting dust is more than an irritant, it is caustic. Goggles aren't a bad idea either!

You can use drills, keyhole saws, X-Acto knives or box cutters... anything really sharp to make holes or to carve a gourd. Hhhhmmmm, maybe you should wear protective gloves too!

If the hole you've cut is small, you'll need to remove the membrane and seeds with a wire coat hanger or a long-handled metal spoon... maybe even a screwdriver.

If the gourd has a large opening or is being used as a bowl, then just use your hands or a large soup spoon to scrape everything off. Once you've got most of the stuff out, you can sand it smooth if needed.

Honestly? Painting gourds is a lot more fun than cleaning them!!! For more on cleaning gourds, contact us here.

Want to learn more?

Let's leave Cleaning Gourds and go to Gourd Painting.

Return to our Decorative Painting Home Page.

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