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View Full Version : Guitar humidifiers - when are they needed?



Robert
October 6th, 2010, 09:58 AM
When do you need a humidifier? Under what conditions? For what type of guitar?

When Is The Humidity "Just Right"?
I have read that the ideal humidity level for your guitar is somewhere between 45-55% relative humidity.

Most guitar humidifiers work via evaporation.

You fill something spongy with water, making sure to wipe off any excess, then place the humidifier inside your guitar or case.

Some humidifiers are made to hang inside an acoustic guitar. Two popular humidifiers designed this way are the Dampit and the Planet Waves GH (for Guitar Humidifier). The Dampit features a perforated surgical rubber tube with a spongy interior. The GH is a more substantial sponge inside a plastic core made to either hang inside the sound hole, or rest in the guitar case storage compartment.

Some humidifiers are designed to go somewhere inside the case, such as in an accessory compartment. These can cause extremely high humidity if placed inside the sound hole of an acoustic guitar.

Kazz
October 6th, 2010, 05:41 PM
Robert.....the basic answer of when do you require a humidifier is: (and this is not Kazz being a smartass either)

If you own an acoustic guitar.......

Now the cheap laminates can live without it....but any quality acoustic is going to have at bare minimum a solid top.....even better guitars will have a solid top, back and sides.

I found this Tech Tip (http://www.sweetwater.com/expert-center/techtips/d--05/23/2006) on Sweetwater's website via a Google Search:

sunvalleylaw
October 6th, 2010, 06:10 PM
When your humidity is "too low". Like below the low 40% range very much. Martin says if your guitar is too far away from 45 - 55 % it is in danger. "Too Far Away" is vague, but I figure too much below low 40s is my point at which I start humidifying. I don't need to stay right in the 45-55 all the time either, since playing conditions are often a bit lower, and I don't want fluctuations all the time. So I moderately humidify. I brought this quote with links to other humidity discussions over here for reference.
Get an inexpensive Hygrometer from Walmart or Target or somewhere. You can keep it in your case. Then you can keep the humidity say at 45 to 50%. You can use the purpose built humidifiers as others have suggested, or just a kitchen sponge in a plastic bag with holes cut in it. Just dampen the sponge, then wring it out thoroughly. You can stick it behind the top of the body of the guitar, or just in the little case inside the case. That should be enough. You live in the intermountain climes, and I would be you might want to do this at least during the winter.

I read up about it quite a bit when I got my Martin. Wild fluctuations are not the best, so you don't want to be keeping your guitar at like 60-65% and then pulling it out and playing in 35%. But keeping a little moisture in the case, or in a guitar closet if you are like Dreadman or some other acoustic guys here, is a good thing. Doesn't hurt to have a humidifier in your playing room too during winter when the heat is on. Helps keep the room humidity up a little. But I would not stress about it too hard. I still use a room humidifier in the winter when the heat is on and it is skin cracking dry in the house, and a sponge in the case as I describe above.

Here are a couple threads where humidification was discussed.

http://www.thefret.net/showthread.php?t=6240

http://www.thefret.net/showthread.php?t=14056

scorona
October 6th, 2010, 07:32 PM
Here in Michigan, I have to begin worrying about humidity around Oct-Nov when the furnace begins to run. I use an Oasis humidifier which is suspended by the strings in the sound-hole. When it gets really dry, I'll add a Dampit or sponge in the headstock area of the guitar case. Its usually a struggle to keep the humidity in the case at 30-35% in the winter and typically have to refill the Oasis every week. No problem in the summer, it's at 45-50% without a humidifier.

I have tried the Planet Waves Humidipaks in the past, they are a little more convenient, but have had some problems/recalls in past, so I'm not that comfortable using them in an expensive guitar. You won't have to worry about checking the humidity level as frequently, but they are a more expensive alternative to Oasis or Dampits.

Here are a couple of videos worth watching from Taylor regarding guitar humidification:

http://www.taylorguitars.com/guitars/features/woods/humidity/default.aspx

sunvalleylaw
October 6th, 2010, 08:15 PM
Its usually a struggle to keep the humidity in the case at 30-35% in the winter and typically have to refill the Oasis every week. No problem in the summer, it's at 45-50% without a humidifier.



Interesting. I noticed that it is harder to keep humidity up in my Gaurdian (MF bought) tolex covered dread case than it is to keep humidity in the molded plastic one that came with my Martin. I would guess because the plastic molded one seals tighter.

Tig
October 6th, 2010, 08:47 PM
For my part of the world, never. I doubt you can get one at a local store without special ordering!

sunvalleylaw
October 7th, 2010, 12:16 AM
Yeah, if I was still living in Tacoma/Seattle, I would not need one at all. On our trip this summer, the humidity outside my case was higher than in.

markb
October 7th, 2010, 01:49 AM
Yeah, if I was still living in Tacoma/Seattle, I would not need one at all...

... or in New Zealand. Only we call it damp not humidity :)

For me it's living 200m from the sea that does the most damage. Add salt to damp and your strings die in no time.

wingsdad
October 8th, 2010, 08:47 AM
Lack of hydration is more of a concern with a solid wood rather than a laminated wood (a/k/a 'plywood') acoustic, particulary the top. The 45-55%RH range is the comfort zone; the danger is in too little or too much.

Regardless of solid or laminate, prolonged exposure to excessively arid climate if you play frequently & attack aggressively can dry out glues, loosening the seals of top braces, joints or the bridge. You'll know you've got this kind of trouble when you hear a buzz or rattle under the top. Solid tops can 'sink' and/or crack. OTH, too much humidity can cause solid woods to expand & swell. Leave it too long and you'll likely ruin it. You can rehydrate the woods, gradually, not all of a sudden, but it can be impossible to adequately reverse the damage with swelled woods.

This is why I don't leave my acoustics in their cases, sealing their environment. I prefer to let them breathe, storing them in a cabinet, closet.

With round soundholes, I prefer Kyser Lifeguard soundhole humidifiers. Oddballs like f-holes or an Ovation Celebrity's multiholes get various gauge/length Dampits. I've tried and still have a couple of the PW things that hang from the strings, but I found the wieght on the strings tended to stretch and kill the strings.

I live in a desert. I reload my humidifiers in my acoustics routinely every weekend, and that's enough. I use a small room humidifier in the closet they're stored in, running it midweek for a couple of hours with the door closed (the guitars in a closed cabinet in there), to pump the humidity in the closet up to about 60-65%; it drops within 24 hours or less to 50%.

It's also important to keep your temperature at around 68-72 degrees F., as cold & heat are the other wood killers.

Here's the guitar humidor:

http://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b81/wingsdad/Studio%20Shots/IMG_0531.jpg

Tig
October 8th, 2010, 09:23 AM
http://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b81/wingsdad/Studio%20Shots/IMG_0531.jpg

My guitars saw this picture and got all hot 'n steamy... One even popped a string! :drool Maybe I should buy them a ShredNeck?
Good thing we don't live nearby, or else they might hook up and we'd have a few litters running around underfoot!

marnold
October 8th, 2010, 11:03 AM
... or in New Zealand. Only we call it damp not humidity :)
Reminds me of a Craig Ferguson bit where he said that in Scotland "damp" is a color. "Those are nice pants . . . do you have them in damp?"

hubberjub
October 8th, 2010, 11:25 AM
I keep one in my Roberson acoustic because it's really sensitive to humidity changes. If my Taylor seems dry I just leave it out in the rain.

Heywood Jablomie
October 8th, 2010, 11:44 AM
I honestly don't know for sure when and whether guitar humidification is necessary, but it seems like the logic goes like this: "I've humidified my guitars, and none of them have failed; therefore, humidification works". Of course, I could say, "I've never humidified my guitars, and none of them have failed; therefore, humidification is unnecessary".

My one humidification experience was with my son's Martin DM. When it was a few years old, he noticed that the action was getting higher. It progressed to the top beginning to collapse, and the neck heel separating from the body. Living in Philly at the time, I called Martin in Nazareth and arranged to have them look at the guitar for warranty service. After the guitar was inspected by a tech, the CSR stated that the failure was caused by improper humidification. I pointed out that the Martin warranty made no mention whatsoever regarding humidification, and that the warranty must cover the guitar. The CSR offered to have the guitar repaired by proper re-humidification, which would take a few weeks. My son and I were not convinced that the DM could be restored properly that way, so we insisted on a replacement. He also had a gig coming up and needed the guitar NOW. While the CSR went to hunt for a replacement, the tech privately confided that he wasn't sure the failure was humidity-related, nor did he think that re-humidification would fix it. Fortunately, Martin gave my son a brand-new DR, which is the next up model with laminated Rosewood sides and back, instead of mahogany (it's all they had in stock). After nearly seven years, and exactly the same care, the DR has had no problems. And I later discovered (Harmony Central, etc.) that there were apparently a rash of DM neck joint failures, which I assume are manufacturing defects not directly related to humidification.

I've read that guitar humidifiers, if not used properly, can cause harm, too. So, a "it wouldn't hurt" approach may not be prudent. Obviously, a climate-controlled environment provided by a central system is ideal from a "it wouldn't hurt" standpoint.

As it stands, I'm still not convinced either way.

deeaa
October 9th, 2010, 02:32 AM
I don't need a humidor because most of the time there is enough humidity up here. For a few months it's super dry in the winter, so that we use humidors for people or our noses dry up and such, but so far I have never had any real problems with guitars. Probably would be good to humidify them a bit during that time, and had I a very expensive acoustic one, I would probably look into it. I have one 25-year old acoustic, though, and the lacquer on the top was quite cracked and all, but then again I have had it with me on a beach in the sun and whatnot.

Tone2TheBone
October 12th, 2010, 09:19 AM
Thanks to this thread my Martin is still curved whew! I need a new dampit though the Planet Waves thingy seems too little to do a good job of moisturizing.

lou
October 25th, 2010, 06:38 PM
I recently was having a problem with my Epi and had sent it in to have looked over and their conclusion was that it needed to be hydrated to fix my problem.
So after 10 days in the case and being re-hydrated it finally started to straighten out for me. Living in even well balanced area's one should always check to make sure that there guitars are well within the 45-55%.
If you are using a hygrometer one should check to make sure that it is reading accurately. http://www.cigarpass.com/salt-test-calibrate-hygrometer/
or this one works good to. http://exoticpets.about.com/od/herpresources/ss/hygrometer_8.htm
I would never assume just because we live in an area that you'd think would provide enough moisture for your acoustics that they won't get dried out, better safe then sorry right.lou

otaypanky
October 25th, 2010, 11:26 PM
I use a humidifier in winter and a dehumidifier in summer. My music area is in the basement and it's usually between 45% and 50%.

player
October 26th, 2010, 12:01 AM
Thanks to this thread my Martin is still curved whew! I need a new dampit though the Planet Waves thingy seems too little to do a good job of moisturizing.wish you were looking for one a few months back.sold it to someone for less than I paid for it and it had a built in hygrometer to boot still have a case guitar humidifier,not sure how it works so do not use it.PM me it can be yours if you want it.

glenn7623
May 28th, 2012, 02:11 PM
I've been using these gel-packs made by Planet Waves.The packs fit inside cloth pouches that slip over the E strings into the sound hole.There's another pouch that goes behind the headstock inside the guitar case.They keep the guitar at a constant humidity of 45-50%.No more guessing and I like that.I've used the sponge type but if you forget about them they completely dry out.That's a problem.

jpfeifer
June 4th, 2012, 03:45 PM
Here in Arizona the relative humidity is often very low, around 10-15% for most of the year. It's really hard on acoustic guitars especially, specifically ones that are made of solid woods (solid body guitars or ones made of laminate are much less sensitive to the low humidity). I have a Martin that suffered a crack in the side where the wood split due to drying out. (it also affects the frets. A dried out guitar will often have frets that stick out over the sides of the guitar from where the neck shrinks slightly as part of the drying process)

Luckily this was reparable in my situation. So I had to start using a humidifier to protect my guitars. I tried the in-the-case humidifiers from all of the popular brands but I finally decided that I should put a more permanent room humidifier in the closet with my acoustic instruments. I bought one at Sears for about $100 and it has saved me a lot of hassle and expense of putting separate humidifiers in every guitar case and refilling them every week. I keep the humidity at about %43 in that closet and it works great. My acoustics actually sound much better now, as a result.

--Jim