Working with gourds is rewarding, but can be dangerous because of the dust and molds they release. It is important to realize that molds are living organisms and gourds must be cleaned and sealed to stop the molds that are apart of them. Steps for safely working on a gourd:
Cleaning the outside. It must be cleaned of any dust, film or mold. This can be done by scrubbing with a copper scrubber using warm, soapy water. It's okay If the stem bubbles. Stubborn gourds can be soaked and covered with a wet towel. Another method of cleaning is to cover with moist potting soil in closed bucket or tub for a few days, then clean. The surface should be clean and dry before any embellishments are done.
If the gourd is to be opened, do all cutting outside in a ventilated area. Wear a dusk mask and dump contents into a plastic bag that can be closed. Inside will contain seeds, the dried membrane of the gourd and mold. Do not breath or allow animals to eat.
Inside must be cleaned by scrapping or sanding down to the hard fiber. The inside can then be sealed with paint, spray clear coat sealer, wood hardener or decoupage paper. The inside must be sealed in some way.
Anytime you are burning, carving or cutting a gourd remember that if you can smell or taste anything, you should be outside wearing a mask. Gourd dust and molds are dangerous!