A guide to using guitar humidifiers
If you’ve ever lived in an older home and listened to its creaks and groans, you know that wood will expand or contract depending on the temperature and/or humidity. Your guitar is made of wood, too – so that means that it is subject to the same principles. What’s more, your guitar is most likely made of more than one type of wood, which means that these changes may take place at different rates within the structure of one instrument. The playability and tone of your guitar may greatly vary due to these environmental influences.
If you are not careful, severe changes in temperature and humidity may even damage your guitar irretrievably. What can you do to prevent this? Insert a guitar humidifier in the case.
What is a guitar humidifier?
A humidifier is a device that maintains a constant humidity rating. A guitar humidifier keeps the wood in your guitar just moist enough so that the wooden parts will not warp or crack in varying environmental situations. There are many different kinds of guitar humidifiers. The most common guitar humidifier employs a long, thin sponge-like material encased in latex (or other plastic-type material). You moisten the sponge with water and insert the humidifier between the strings of your guitar when you put it in its case.
The humidifier for an acoustic guitar extends down into the body cavity, which allows low moisture levels to circulate throughout the inside of the body.
You can make your own guitar humidifier by taking a lightly damp rag and securely wrapping it in a plastic bag. Poke small holes in the bag – just small enough to allow moisture to escape, but not big enough to allow water to drip – and place the bag inside your guitar case. Be careful with this method, as wet surfaces may damage your finish!
Can I over-humidify?
Simply put, yes. Just as being too dry can negatively affect the tone and playability of your guitar, being over-humidified can also warp and ruin your guitar. If the wood is significantly dampened, you may even grow mold on your electronics and metal frets! If the wood gets too soft, you have some serious trouble on your hands.
How do I know which one to get?
This will vary greatly depending on both your instrument and your location. Start by consulting your nearby guitar shop. They should be familiar with the types and settings that you will need, so ask for their recommendation. Typically, it’s a safe bet that if you live in a dry climate or travel often, you will need a guitar humidifier. If you live in a damper, cooler climate, you may not want one at all. They do not cost much – but, honestly, what price can you put on keeping your instrument in good shape and sounding great.
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