Dear Amy: Although many craft paints are labeled non-toxic, this is in reference to its intended uses — such as adorning the surface of a pumpkin. But if you compost the pumpkin, the paint will eventually seep into your compost and nearby soil and water. Possible contamination of soil and water is not an intended use of paint, so it is best not to introduce paint into your compost. Glitter paint is also problematic because the glitter becomes litter!
If only part of your pumpkin is painted, cut the painted portions off to put in the trash. If the whole thing is painted, play it safe and put the whole thing in the trash; it will help to reduce recycling contamination.
Also keep in mind that a pumpkin covered in a preservative sealant, whether or not it is painted, could introduce harmful chemicals. Instead of using a sealant, take a few preparatory steps to extend its life:
1. Choose a pumpkin that is ripe and healthy, with a hard shell that is free of nicks or blemishes.
2. Wipe it down with a diluted bleach solution (one tablespoon of bleach to one gallon of water) to remove bacteria and fungal spores.
3. Once you’ve painted it, place it somewhere dry and out of the sun. This will preserve both the decoration and the pumpkin itself for up to several weeks.
Regardless of how you used your pumpkin — for carving, painting, or eating — remember to remove all the seeds before composting. Otherwise, you may be surprised by the results of a different kind of contamination: Pumpkin plants!
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