Cleaning Your Gourd

By Dorothy LaVonne Mitchell (LaVonne) on August 9, 2011

Now that you have grown and harvested your gourds and they are dry lets clean them up for use.





Now that you’ve harvested your gourds and stored them in an adequate environment and they have dried completely it is time to clean then inside and out depending on what you are going to craft out of it.  If you are not going to cut it then all that is needed is a good cleaning of the outside and we will cover that shortly.

However, let’s assume that you are going to make a birdhouse out of your gourd.

What can you expect to find when you open a gourd? Dust, seeds, a Styrofoam-like substance, and hardened pulp, maybe even a few tiny beetles. You probably don't want to keep that junk in there, right? So you have to clean it out, and often this is easy, but occasionally this can get ugly.

You should prepare yourself for cleaning the outside with:
~ A sink or tub, the size depending on the size(s) of gourds you're cleaning.
~ Rags
~ Copper scrubbing pads. 100% copper means they won't rust should you want to use them again later.
~ Old towel(s)
~ Something to scrape with, perhaps a knife edge
~ Rubber dish gloves

You should prepare yourself for cleaning the inside with:
~ Gardening gloves, or thicker gloves
~ A melon baller
~ A taxidermy scraper
~ A sanding sponge
~ A shop vac
~ Dust masks, the best ones being for the finest particulate matter
~ Eye protection, especially if you plan on using power tools
~ Electric drill with wire brush bit for spots that are hard to reach

~ Electric drill with a hole bit to make the holes in the side for birdhouse gourds.

Please don't ignore the safety precautions, especially regarding sawdust. If you use a high-powered cutting tool (Dremel, etc), you'll be generating a lot... a LOT... of sawdust from the gourd, and it is very, very fine. The faster the tool, the more dust you'll create. Many gourd artists opt for mini-jigsaws with variable speeds, to control the cutting and minimize dust. In addition to dust masks and goggles, you should work in a well-ventilated area.


2011-08-09/LaVonne/74bde4 2011-08-09/LaVonne/036e42


Here are steps to cleaning and decorating your gourd:

Step 1

Wear a dust mask or respirator while cleaning your gourd.  The mold that collects over the drying time can cause lung problems and once it is opened the pith and “sawdust” inside can also cause some respiratory problems. Also use protective glasses so that dust and particles don't get into your eyes.

Remove any dirt or debris from the outside of the gourd using a dry scrub brush or sandpaper.

Step 2

Take the gourd into your cleaning bucket or sink, and submerge it, soaking it in warm water for about a half hour or so, (mild detergent is optional). It helps to cover the gourd with a wet towel while it soaks, this helps to keep the entire surface damp.

Once the gourd has soaked, it can be cleaned by scrubbing the skin off with a copper Choreboy or something similar. We do not recommend steel wool as it can turn the surface brown from the tiny particles of steel rusting, nor do we recommend using the soapy scrubbers because the steel wool material can bread up and leave particles on your gourd or your hands.  It is recommended that you wear kitchen chore gloves when cleaning your gourds.


Step 3

Dry the gourd completely

Step 4

Hubby’s Drill with a hole saw bit will easily cut a hole on one side of the gourd. The size of the hole depends on the type of bird you hope to attract. For most small birds, a hole 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter is appropriate. Be sure the bottom of the entrance hole is not too low to the bottom. This will prevent fledglings from falling out of the gourd before it is time for them to leave the nest.


All of the birds listed below are cavity nesters and will use gourds if positioned and hung properly.

Bird Species

Diameter of Hole

  Height above Ground




Eastern Bluebird



Carolina Chickadee



Tufted Titmouse




1" - 1-1/4"


Northern Flicker



Carolina Wren



Tree Swallow



Downy Woodpecker



Red-Headed Woodpecker



Purple Martin

2” – 2-1/2”


 Step 5

Clean out the inside of the gourd using a long handled spoon that has had its serving part ground to the size you need for the opening and sharpened, a stiff long handled brush (wire brush is ok). Remove all of the seeds and debris until the interior is smooth and clean. Keep the seeds, lay them out on dry paper towels and let them dry, then store them in a paper bag.  Eventually you will be able store them in a plastic or glass container and stored in a cool semi-dark place.

 Step 6

Sand the edges of the holes to remove any rough edges or burrs. Use a Dremel with sanding barrels or sandpaper grades to prepare the outside of the gourd for staining, varnishing, or decorating. Whip the dust off with a damp towel.

Step 7

Drill a 1/4-inch hole through both sides near the stem of the gourd.

Step 8

Run a piece of wire or twine through the hole you drilled in Step 7 to create a hanger. Then remove it until you have finished decorating it, then it can be re-inserted.

 Step 9

Drill 4 – 6 1/4-inch holes in the bottom of the gourd for drainage else you take the chance of drowning the babies.

 Step 10

Paint a thin layer of polyurethane over the outside of the gourd to protect it from the weather. Or if you choose use acrylic craft paints and some stencils or patterns to sketch designs of scenery, flowers or vines on the gourd.  When you are finished make sure that it is completely dry then

 Step 11

 Spray it thoroughly with and acrylic all weather sealer and let if completely dry again. It will then be ready to hang on your porch or in a tree for a bird to make it home and raise her family.

Some information taken from:

Are there benefits to gourd birdhouses over other types?

Research has shown that gourds are superior homes over commercial houses for some species for a variety of reasons. Weather is a major cause of mortality in many bird species, especially purple martins. Natural gourds offer better insulation against heat and cold than aluminum or plastic housing.  Our bird friends, when given the choice, will always nest first in a natural gourd before using an aluminum house, wood house, or plastic gourd.

Natural gourds also provide a larger, deeper nesting compartment for the birds than the typical 6-inch by 6-inch compartment houses available from birdhouse suppliers. These deeper nesting cavities offer better protection against predators and reduce egg losses. All of this adds up to the birds having their highest reproductive success in gourds.

I hope that you have fun with your birdhouse gourd.  Next article we will cover ways to decorate your gourd.




Related articles:
cleaning, gourds, removing insides

About Dorothy LaVonne Mitchell
Single Senior Citizen, engaged in crafts. I like painting gourds, rocks and sewing various craft items: animals, dolls, quilts, and I like doing floral arrangements and mini-gardens.

« More articles

Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Cleaning threegardeners Nov 10, 2011 5:23 PM 12
bird house thoughts Lance Aug 10, 2011 5:51 PM 0

All About Gourds

If you have never been "into" gourds here is the place to learn how to grow, harvest, clean, and decorate this wonderful and interesting vegetable of the Squash family. Just come on in and visit with us and share knowledge!!

» Home
» Forums
» Articles
» Database

Cubit owner: LaVonne

Admin team:

» Contact the admins