DIY Pressure Washer Pumpkin Carving: What to Know

Updated: Sep. 19, 2023

We jumped into the pressure washer pumpkin carving craze! We thought it was a blast, but is it practical? Find out here.

For most, carving a pumpkin with knives and saws from a cheap carving kit is a blast. It’s a holiday tradition that allows you to stretch your creative muscles and get lost in the zen of carving a big orange gourd. Our family loves the idea of carving pumpkins, but not necessarily the act of carving them. The mess involved and the time it takes don’t always work for our busy lives.

So, naturally, we followed social-media-suit and fired up our electric pressure washer instead.

But does it work? Can you carve your Halloween pumpkin with a pressure washer? Sure, the videos online make it look easy, but is it a one-time thing for laughs or is it a seasonal solution to the pumpkin-carving problem? We dug, er, carved in to find out.

How It Works

For the uninitiated, it may seem like a pumpkin is one those things you should never pressure wash because it would slice through it more like a lightsaber than a carving knife. But this method can work if you keep the pressure washer under control. With the correct pressure, nozzle, distance, and design, this could be the new go-to method for carving pumpkins—particularly for people who don’t love carving pumpkins traditionally.

Here’s how it works: With the design in place, the user turns on their pressure washer and uses its high-pressure stream as a sort of carving laser. The water punches through the front of the pumpkin, cutting the flesh, and allowing the carver to remove chunks or shapes from the pumpkin. There aren’t any slippery knives or saws to deal with, and it’s potentially much safer than knife carving.

The Process

This method does work, to a degree, and the following step-by-step will explain how. Here’s a tip though: The mouth of your jack-o-lantern is typically the largest shape you’ll have to cut out, so it’s the easiest to zero in on. However, to really enjoy the pressure washer carving process, leave the mouth to last. It’s worth it—you’ll see why.

1. Start by drawing a face or design on the pumpkin. You’ll need to use a bold permanent marker as the overspray will wash any pencil away, and a pen or fine marker may be too hard to follow.

2. Place the pumpkin on a sturdy surface like a portable workbench as we did in the video. Don’t use outdoor wicker, wood, or even painted patio furniture. A pressure washer can damage or discolor them quickly.

3. Choose the 0-degree nozzle for the pressure washer wand and set it somewhere between 1,700 and 2,000 PSI. You’ll want the water to act as a concentrated jet in order to cut through the pumpkin’s walls and allow for pinpoint accuracy, but this range and nozzle combination are forgiving when finding the point of aim.

4. Stand with the tip of the pressure washer wand three to four feet away from the pumpkin. Spread your feet shoulder-width apart. Get a firm grip on the pressure washer handle with one hand, and then support the wand with the other hand.

5. Aiming well into the middle of an eye or the nose (we suggest leaving the mouth until last, for effect), squeeze the trigger of the pressure washer to start the blast. Slowly work to the edge of the shape by rotating your hips or your shoulders slightly to maintain control

6. Follow the edge of the shape with the pressure washer’s stream, working slowly. There are two methods for this; move back and forth on the same line or make continuous passes around the shape of the eye, nose, or mouth. I

f you feel like you’re struggling to control the stream, use the first method of going line-by-line. If you’re a sharpshooter, go ahead and make passes around the shape.

7. Once confident that the shape is cut (but it’s still wedged in the hole), blast it away with the pressure washer. Aim at the middle of the shape and let the stream of water chew away at the cut-out shape.

8. If you’ve been patient and left the mouth for last, now’s the time to really enjoy the pressure washer method. Using the same techniques as above, cut out the mouth. Once cut through, the built-up water, seeds, and guts will come pouring out ole Jack’s mouth, giving the spooky pay-off everyone’s in it for.

Tips for Success

Because our family loves the concept of pumpkin carving but not always the practical application, with this method, everyone enjoyed themselves. Here are a few tips to help you have fun, too:

  • Wait for a relatively warm day. You will get sprayed with water and pumpkin guts. We warned you!

  • Pressure washers can be extremely dangerous. Stay behind children if they’re using the pressure washer, ready to steady the wand if it gets out of control or put themselves or others in a dangerous situation. Wear safety glasses or a face shield.

  • Use a simple design. Think traditional jack-o’-lantern faces, ghost or bat shapes, and the like. If the plan is to carve a fairy castle with a pressure washer, someone will end up disappointed.

Note: This method will not remove seeds or guts completely. To be quite honest, deer got at our pumpkins the first night they were out as they couldn’t lay off the gooey goodness inside. We found the fact that this method doesn’t remove the guts or seeds and attracts the deer to be its biggest drawback. We could have solved this by cutting the top open and removing the guts, but that would defeat the point of this method.

How Well Does Pressure Washer Pumpkin Carving Work?

We thought this method was a blast (literally and figuratively). We also felt it was safer and more entertaining than cutting with carving knives. No, you won’t be able to create intricate, fancy pumpkin designs, but the speed at which you can carve may be worth it. As amateurs with relatively low-pressure settings, we were averaging around four minutes per pumpkin — not bad!