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5 Tips for Keeping Your Guitar Humidified


While the Repair Shop is REALLY good at fixing top cracks, we hate to see good wood go dry. During the winter months lack of moisture in the air can not only lead to top cracks, but binding and braces can come loose, frets can pop out of the fingerboard and the lacquer finish on your instrument can even shrink into the grain.

Whether you have a classic vintage guitar, or a starter instrument, properly humidifying it is extremely important for keeping it playing well in the years to come. Here are our 5* Tips for keeping your instrument humidified this winter season.

Hygrometers in the shop

An example of analog and digital hygrometers

1. Get a Hygrometer
Okay, we know this sounds like something you would use in science class, but it's honestly the first line of defense against dry air attacking your guitar. Place the hygrometer in your case, or in the room your instruments generally live, and check it often to monitor your humidity level. Generally, a humidity level of 45-50% is ideal for wood instruments to maintain their structure and playability.

The best way to double check your hygrometer, specifically on a flat top guitar, is to look across the top at the bridge and check it's radius. You should see a gradual rise to the top, preventing you from seeing both sides of the instrument at the same time when holding the top at eye level.

Checking the radius of a guitar top

Visually check or carefully use a straight edge to ensure your flap top guitar still has a slight radius.

2. Keep it in the case
Guitars look really cool on stands...we get it, we've got an entire store full of them! However, during the winter months, especially when you have the heat on, bust out the cases and store them when you're not busy jamming out.

3. Sponge Humidifier - We keep four different brands of humidifiers in stock here at the store to fit any and every sort of instrument. The Kyser Lifeguard is a shop favorite due to it's ease of use, and ability to slide right into the sound hole without shifting around. We also tube based humidifiers that work great in the F-holes of Mandolins, Fiddles and Archtops. 

Kyser Sound Hole Humidifier

Kyser Lifeguard Humidifier

Tube Humidifier

Dampit tube-style humidifier

4. Humidity System - The D'Addario/Planet Waves Two Way humidification system is a great way to supplement your sponge based humidifier during extremely dry periods. The reverse osmosis membrane releases water vapor without you having to refill the sponge and automatically maintains a proper humidity level in your case. These packs do expire though, so keeping a few refills on hand is a must.

5. Room Humidifier - These are great for regulating the humidity in a particular room of your house or studio. Make sure and pick one out that has a built in regulator, allowing it to automatically kick on when the humidity drops below 40%. If you insist on keeping your instruments out of the case, this is a must have.

*Bonus Pick: Whole House Humidifier - This takes the room humidifier to a whole other level. These are generally installed at your furnace and allow for the entire house to be humidified whenever your HVAC system kicks in. These are great for keeping humidity levels consistent without having to mess with refilling sponges or water reservoirs as they generally connect to a water line.

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Comments

Doug

January 22 2016

Great tips, thanks. I’ve always wondered though, does the same advice apply to solid body electrics?

Matt K

January 22 2016

Hey Doug! Thanks for asking. The short answer is yes, and no. You’re not going to have the same top crack problems as on an acoustic, however there are issues that can happen on a solid body guitar. As the wood shrinks things like screws or tuner bushing will come loose, frets will pop out of the fingerboard and the finish can crack or sink into the wood grain. Hope that helps!

John M

January 20 2018

Great article! Much appreciated. Every acoustic guitar owner should read this.

Matt K

January 22 2018

Thanks John!

Martin Markley

February 02 2018

In the article on humidification, when you refer to the guitar needing to have a slight radius when looking across the guitar’s top at the bridge, why is this? What does it mean when the guitar’s top has too much radius, or when the guitar’s top is completely flat?

Matt K

February 07 2018

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Hopefully this helps!

“when you refer to the guitar needing to have a slight radius when looking across the guitar’s top at the bridge, why is this?”
Most flat top guitars are constructed with a radiused top, this goes back to the early X-braced guitars that were constructed by Martin. To get into why guitars are built that way would be a much longer discussion :)

“What does it mean when the guitar’s top has too much radius”
Usually this is a sign of over humidification. It could also be a sign of structural issues – either the bracing is too light, or one of the braces or the bridge could be failing. Would be best to consult a luthier at that point.

“…or when the guitar’s top is completely flat”
Usually this is a sign of a dry guitar, and once properly humidified the radius should return.

It’s impossible to speak broadly about every guitar ever built. There are some acoustic guitars that are constructed with a completely flat top, but I would consult the builder or your favorite luthier if you have questions regarding how to properly humidify a particular instrument.

Thanks!

gordon

February 19 2018

You mention the D’Addario/Planet Waves Two Way humidification system as a supplement to a water based/sponge humidifier. Are you suggesting that in the event of a “dry” guitar? I use the D’Addario/Planet Waves Two Way humidification system y as a stand-alone approach and it seems to work well. Thanks.

Matt K

February 19 2018

The two way system works great as a stand alone solution as well! We generally recommend the sponge based system as the first line of defense, but the two-way systems are great, especially for people traveling from dry to humid conditions and back.

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