Humidifying Guitars and Not Knowing Why

And best not to place your guitars close to vents where warm air can blow on them in the cold months or close to windows where the sun can shine directly on them.
The amount of variation in a room when the humidity is good would be very little. One thing that can really affect humidity in the colder months is cooking/boiling water etc. So if you find your home very low in the winter and want to play your guitar cook up a big pot of spaghetti. It will only raise the humidity for a few hours close to the kitchen but it will raise it.

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A very good point. Fortunately for me, one of my guitars is a Taylor CE. Taylor has available a unit called Taylor Sense that replaces the battery set up with an electronic board that monitors humidity and hard knocks to the instrument. I access the data daily via a phone app and adjust my humidifier/dehumidifier to keep the humidity within a 50-55% range.

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One of my guitar teachers played classical nylon string, and told me how he humidified his guitars during the heating season.

He used to put his guitar on its stand in the bathroom, and run the shower and let the room steam up. For only 15 minutes, IIRC.

I think I tried it once or twice, and it seemed to help…and my guitar showed no ill effects. But looking back at it, it seems like a lot of humidity in a short time, and makes me wonder if it’s potentially harmful in the long run.

I don’t know how quickly guitars respond to humidity. I recall researching how long to rehydrate a guitar before repairing cracks (I bought a fixer upper) and it was three weeks in a plastic bag with wet sponges (I measured 80% RH in the bag).

I imagine that large temperature changes and prolonged heat, like in a car or in a sunny window, next to a fireplace, would be the more rapid effect.

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I have a Taylor CE as well and saw the unit you described. I thought that was really slick! Was going for buy it but can’t remember now why I didn’t?! I see a purchase in my future :blush:.

Keeping a dedicated room properly humidified should be easy. People going in and out of doors is going to make a minuscule difference. The room would need to be wildly out of spec. for a few days or more for it to start to be a concern: if the ideal is 45-55% humidity, them the room would probably need to be well over 60%, or well under 40% humidity for a few days before it started to have a detrimental affect on the guitars.

If they can’t keep the room in those conditions, then their A/C is faulty.

And, guitars aren’t that fragile!

My suspicions are:

  1. He’s lying about the humidity issue, and just using it as an excuse to cover up a QC issue
  2. Your location is very dry, or very humid, and someone turned off the A/C for an extended period of time
  3. Or someone left the A/C running on the wrong setting for an extended period of time.

Given it’s just been the Xmas period and many stores may have been closed for a few days, the latter two are entirely possible, but it’s also likely he was trying to cover up a QC issue too.

Either way, you got great service, so I wouldn’t sweat it.

It’s a lovely looking guitar. Enjoy it!

Cheers,

Keith

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Agree with this!

I got a humidity sensor for home and I’ve seen it vary from around 30% (in winter with the central heating on) up to around 60% and nothing bad has happened to my guitars.

I would see it as a positive that they didn’t sell you that guitar even if I had doubts about the explanation

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@majik You make very good points. Thanks for that input!

@mattswain I have the exact same humidity swings in my house. Well, maybe not quite to 60% but in the low to mid 50s for sure. I haven’t noticed anything in my guitars either unless the 30% can cause a bit of fret buzz in electrics. But could just be that my electrics are set with pretty low action. And my acoustic is 15 years old and hasn’t ever shown any splitting or cracking. Hopefully a Taylor is good enough quality to withstand the 30-55% range.

I will say, last winter we had a temp drop where humidity went into the teens inside the house. I bought a room humidifier and will use it if that happens again.

@jamolay Wow that guitar must be good wood! I’ll try to make simple efforts to keep the indoor humidity in decent range, and try not to worry too much. Yeah that does sound like bad business. And I am appreciative that the employee for being honest about it. But it pays to be conscientious and ask for checks too. He was going to just sell me the thing if I hadn’t asked.

@dblinden I know, right. Goodness there’s got to be some point where we trust the manufacturer. Its just that new car syndrome, ya know, where we don’t want to eat, drink, or wear shoes in a brand new car haha. And certainly don’t want to dent it.

The other fix for low humidity (when caused by central heating) is simply to sit bowls of water on top of your radiators

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I live in Minnesota. It gets too cold to keep the whole house between 45-55% in the winter without getting condensation on the windows. Even with an April Air humidifier on my furnace, the house is in the mid 30% range most of that time. So, I keep my guitars in their cases with humidification devices when I’m not playing them.

The local luthier (a guy who builds guitars from scratch and teaches technical-college classes in guitar repair) just posted a picture on his Facebook page of a guitar he was repairing. It was an acoustic with a significant crack on the top from drying out. He included a warning about keeping your guitar properly humidified in the winter, noting that he has done many repairs to damaged instruments as a result of dry houses.

To those who say “I’ve never had a problem,” all I can say is, by the time you realize that there is a problem, it’s too late. Why risk it, when the prevention is not that difficult?

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I guess there are probably storage cabinets for this… I know there are for camera gear etc

I’m sure there are. But putting a humidification devices on a guitar case is a lot cheaper.

I would say the lesson from that, is to get a hygrometer. Then you know what the humidity is and whether or not you need humidifier packs (or dessicant packs).

The safe range (for acoustic guitars) seems to be 40-65%. Short periods outside this are probably OK, but sustained periods are probably not. For some people, living in more extreme locations, this will be a genuine issue. For most others it won’t.

The only way you know for sure is by taking measurements

Electric guitars are much.more resilient.

Almost certainly not, unless the temperature/humidity swing is quite fast.

The biggest risk for electric guitars is the potential form the fretboard to dry out and cause problems with the frets. This is likely to take several sustained weeks or months of dry conditions (significantly less than 30%).

If you are concerned, get a hygrometer. If you live in the UK or central Europe, don’t worry at all.

Cheers,

Keith

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I have humidity meters. In the room where I keep my guitars and in their cases. When the room gets regularly under 40% in the winter, they go into their cases until spring comes and the indoor humidity goes back up. Then, living in the upper Midwest of the US, there comes time when I need to run a dehumidifier.

I just don’t understand the attitude of “don’t worry about it.” It takes so little effort, why not err on the side of caution?

Congrats to the Taylor !!! Very good and good size too especially for a beginner. You will make progress very fast due to your piano background. I have two Taylor builders edition and I love them both. Well invested money after messing around several other acoustics.

Regarding humidity I have a scientific backgrund an can tell that cheap humidity meters can differ ± 20 % from the true value. A real meter is expensive ! Taylors humidity meter is no good !
I live in Sweden at its like Minnesota so we have very dry indoors in the winter. I use a humidity pack for my Taylors and it works well enough to keep them in tune. However best thing is to put in the pack and then put them in their cases. I only do that when I go away for more than a couple of days.
Good luck with your guitar and with some TLC it will give you joy !

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Well, I have a Science and Engineering background, so I thought I would check into this.

I got some information from someone who is heavily into cigars (which are a LOT more sensitive to humidity than guitars). The advice: yes hygrometers can be inaccurate, but not because they are inherently unreliable, but because they drift out of calibration easily.

The recommendation is to calibrate a new hygrometer, and then every 6 months. there are calibration kits available quite cheaply. With regular calibration, an inexpensive ($50 or less) hygrometer should be around 2-3% accurate.

I don’t understand this approach of randomly throwing a couple of humidifying packs into your guitar case without knowing whether you need them or not, as if it was some sort of silver-bullet against guitar damage.

Without knowing what the humidty is, you could be over-humidifying your guitar, which is just as detrimental as letting it get too dry.

Without measuring it, you have no idea if the treatment you are applying is actually working or not.

And having a calibrated hygrometer will tell you whether you need to bother conditioning your space at all, or whether it’s just at certain times of the year you need to take special precautions.

So if you have concerns, I would still recommend getting a hygrometer, and learning how to calibrate it.

Cheers,

Keith

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The “Humidipaks” that most of us have been referring to work both ways. They release moisture if the air is too dry, they absorb moisture if the air is too damp.

In fact, when my packs get dried out from humidifying the guitar case in the dry winter, I can put them in a sealed container with a wet sponge and they’ll absorb moisture out of the air to the point where they’re usable in the cases again.

And these passive chemical packs are more accurate than a hygrometer?

Note that the manufacturers of these packs offer very little information as to their effective range (other than recommending a temperature of 75°) and even state that, under some conditions they may not work as well.

Also, how do you know that the pack is still effective, or whether you have a defective one?

How do you know when you need to store your guitar in the case with a pack versus leaving it out on a stand.

I don’t understand the attitude of trusting a product which has very little data on it’s efficacy (apocryphal stories and “word-of-mouth” do not count), and zero guarantee in the case where it doesn’t work, to magically maintain your guitar’s condition.

I’m not saying they don’t work, or that they aren’t useful, but they are also not foolproof and not a magic bullet.

As a minimum, they should be used in conjunction with measurements taken using a calibrated hygrometer.

Cheers,

Keith

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Hi Majik,

I have two analog hygrometers in my music room and when one is 40 % the other one shows around 30 %. I have tried other as well and most in this prince range ar not better! Old style analog meters are usually based on a horse hair straw. I f you have any suggestions for a better instrument at a reasonable price I am all ear. In the CRC handbook on Physics and Chemistry calibration should be done using different mixtures of sulfuric acid and water placed in an exicator. (i.e. closed glass vessel). That’s is only for doing in a laboratory. If you have a simpler solution please suggest it!

Since I live in middle Sweden we have very dry climate 6 months of the year and summers are not wet either I is usually never over 70-75 % RH. I have had acoustic guars since 1967 but those were cheap and had laminated tops. I you have a solid top it is more sensitive. For me it is noticeable difference in the winter to use a humidifying pack. I play every day and if the pack is there there is very little tuni got be done but if I go away for a week and the pack dries out there is much more dining to do or even readjusting the truss rod (if leaving for weeks) .

Regards

Well, there’s this:

It’s adjustable, so you can calibrate it (and they advise you to when you get it).

Or, there’s digital ones, which are generally considered to be more accurate than analogue ones:

Or, if you want to get hi-tech:

In terms of calibration, I’m sure if you are calibrating a highly expensive and accurate lab hygrometer, where even a 1% error can matter, then the procedure you describe is required.

But we aren’t and a error margin of up to around 10% is fine for the purposes of checking the safe storage of guitars.

There are calibration packs and procedures designed for calibrating hygrometers. Note these are mostly aimed at the high-end cigar/humidor market where humidity is much more important than it is for guitars, even guitars with wooden tops :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Note that this calibration procedures uses the same technology as Humidipaks, but under much more controlled conditions and, therefore, should be more accurate (but at least as accurate).

So, if this isn’t an acceptable calibration method, you are basically saying that these humidity packs are trash and shouldn’t be trusted!

Cheers,

Keith