Cleaning the Inside of a Gourd (#6 in series)

How to clean the dried pulp out of a gourd

Cleaning the inside of gourd
Various sizes of cleaner balls are available to clean the inside of gourds

Once you have cut the top off of your gourd, it is time for cleaning the inside of the gourd. Cutting open the gourd will reveal seeds, dried pulp and membrane and sometimes a shiny white foam-like substance. Sometimes the seeds will be loose and sometimes they will be bound together in a hard clump. Cleaning the inside of a gourd will expose mold and dust, so make sure you are wearing your mask or respirator during EVERY step of this process. If you want, you can save the seeds from the gourd to plant for next year.  Some people also save them to use as part of the decoration on their gourds.

Why would you even need to bother with cleaning the inside of the gourd if people are meant to look at the outside? For a professional looking piece of art, cleaning the inside is a must. A clean, smooth surface is optimal for painting or decorating.

When cleaning the inside of a gourd, there are several choices of tools to use. Some are common household tools and some are specialty tools.

Here are some items that you can use to clean the gourd inside:

  • large metal serving spoon
  • canning jar lids
  • various tools used in ceramics
  • large seashells
  • commercially made gourd scrapers
  • wire brush attachment on drill
  • home made scrapers
  • sanding ball attachment on drill
  • sandpaper

Some people make their own scrapers by bending a blade, such as a hacksaw blade and attaching it to a wooden handle with a clamp, forming a loop. The serrated edge will easily scrape the gourd pulp out of your gourd.

Whatever tool you use, scrape the sides and bottom, frequently dumping the debris into a trash can as you work. Keep working at it until all the pulp and membrane has been removed. This can be rather tedious and time-consuming. When you feel you have scraped out all the membrane sufficiently, you may then want to sand down the inside with sandpaper to get an even smoother surface. Yet another time-consuming process.

Because this process can take up so much of your valuable time, many people have switched to using power tools to clean the inside of their gourds. This makes the process so much quicker and easier. Even here, you have a couple choices.

A wire brush designed to be attached to a drill will save you lots of time. There are also sanding ball attachments used with a drill. This is basically a hard ball (maybe concrete or resin?) coated in course granules with a metal post that fits into your drill. This was one of the greatest inventions ever for gourders (click here for more info and a video). I’ve been using the ball attachments for several years now and absolutely love them.

Here is my process:

Cleaning the inside of a gourd
Cleaner ball attached to drill makes short work of cleaning the inside of a gourd

After I have dumped out the loose stuff from the gourd, I get my husband’s manly drill and my supply of ball attachments. With my mask and apron on, I sit myself on the floor of the entrance to my outdoor craft room. The gourd sits on my lap and I insert the ball attachment into the gourd opening and squeeze that drill trigger. I run it up and down on the sides of the gourd inside. There is a trash can right next to me and I frequently dump the gourd dust and mess into the trash. Then I rotate the gourd on my lap and start again. I work the bottom of the gourd and around the rim in the same way, dumping and looking inside a lot to see what areas need more cleaning.

When the inside of the gourd is clean and smooth and there is no more shiny foam-looking stuff on the sides, I switch to another ball attachment that has a more fine grit and smooth out the inside a bit more. The ball attachments come in course and fine grit. If you can only purchase one, get the course grit. I then dump out any remaining dust, tapping the sides of the gourd while holding it over the trash can. Then I get my vacuum and suck up any remnant dust inside the gourd. This will make it easier to finish and paint the inside of the gourd (the next step in our beautiful gourd art creation) and just because I don’t like dust.

You can do some hand sanding with sandpaper if you choose. I usually don’t as the ball attachments do a great job of smoothing out the sides.

Now that your gourd is empty, you may be surprised at how light it is. Unless you are using a giant gourd, your gourd probably weighs just a few ounces. It is also handy now to have the top cut open and clean because this gives you a way to more easily hold onto your gourd as you are working on it.

Next up in this series, we will paint the inside of the gourd.

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