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TECH TIPS #1: Is Humidity The Single Biggest Killer Of Guitars?

Guitars are more than just instruments; for many they are works of art, engineering marvels, and even treasured companions. One of the most insidious threats to guitars we see in the workshop is not something that most players think about on a daily basis: humidity. Understanding how humidity affects guitars and how to protect your instrument from its damaging effects is essential for any guitar owner. To quote Nelly, 'It's Getting Hot in Herre'...

The Impact of Humidity on Guitars

Humidity, the amount of moisture in the air, can have a profound effect on guitars. Guitars are primarily made from wood, a material that is sensitive to changes in its environment. When the humidity level changes, wood expands or contracts, which can lead to several issues.

High Humidity

High humidity causes wood to absorb moisture from the air, which makes it swell. This swelling can lead to several problems:

  • Warping: The neck of the guitar can warp, making it difficult to play.

  • Swelling of the Body: The guitar body can swell, leading to a change in the action (the distance between the strings and the fretboard), which can make the guitar harder to play and affect the intonation.

  • Glue Joints Weakening: High moisture levels can weaken the glue joints that hold the guitar together, potentially causing parts to separate.

Low Humidity

Conversely, low humidity causes wood to lose moisture, making it shrink. This shrinkage can cause:

  • Cracking: The wood can crack, which is not only unsightly but can also severely damage the guitar.

  • Fret Sprout: The fretboard can shrink, causing the fret ends to stick out, which is uncomfortable and can lead to injury.

  • Bridge Lifting: The bridge can lift off the body, which impacts the guitar's playability and sound.

Regional Humidity Challenges: USA and Europe

In the USA, regions such as the Southeast experience high humidity levels, especially during the summer months. States like Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi often have average humidity levels above 70%. Conversely, states in the Southwest, such as Arizona and Nevada, tend to have very low humidity levels, often below 30%.

In Europe, the situation varies as well. Northern Europe, including countries like the UK and Norway, often experiences high humidity due to their maritime climates. On the other hand, Southern Europe, including Spain and Italy, can have dry conditions, particularly in inland areas.

For guitar owners in both the USA and Europe, understanding the local climate and its potential impact on guitars is crucial for maintaining their instruments in top condition.

Expert Advice: Taylor and Gibson Guitars

Both Taylor Guitars and Gibson Guitars, two of the most respected names in the industry, have extensive resources and advice on how to manage humidity.

Taylor Guitars

Taylor Guitars emphasizes the importance of maintaining a relative humidity (RH) level between 45% and 55% for optimal guitar health. They offer several tips on their website:

  • Humidipaks: Taylor recommends using D’Addario Humidipaks, which are two-way humidification systems that maintain a consistent RH level.

  • Hygrometers: Use a hygrometer to monitor the humidity level where you store your guitar.

  • Humidifiers: In dry environments, use a room or case humidifier to maintain the appropriate humidity level.

Taylor also provides detailed instructions on how to identify humidity-related problems, such as dry or swollen guitars, and offers solutions for addressing these issues.

Gibson Guitars

Gibson Guitars also highlights the critical nature of controlling humidity. They advise keeping the humidity level around 45% to 55% and offer similar solutions:

  • Humidifiers: Using sound hole humidifiers or room humidifiers can help keep the guitar's environment stable.

  • Cases: Storing guitars in their cases when not in use can help buffer against rapid humidity changes.

  • Regular Monitoring: Regularly check the humidity levels using a hygrometer, especially during seasonal changes.

Practical Tips for Managing Humidity

There are several household items and strategies you can use to manage humidity levels and protect your guitar:

Humidifiers and Dehumidifiers

  • Room Humidifiers: These are especially useful in dry climates. They add moisture to the air and help maintain an appropriate humidity level in the room where you store your guitar.

  • Room Dehumidifiers: In humid climates, these devices remove excess moisture from the air, preventing the wood from swelling.

Sound Hole Humidifiers

These are small devices that can be placed inside the guitar's sound hole. They are particularly effective in maintaining the right humidity levels directly inside the guitar case.


A hygrometer is an essential tool for any guitar owner. This device measures the humidity level and helps you ensure that your guitar is stored in an environment with the proper RH level. Digital hygrometers are more accurate and easier to read than analog versions.

DIY Solutions

If you’re looking for cost-effective ways to manage humidity, there are several household items you can use:

  • Sponges: A damp sponge placed in a perforated plastic bag can be used as a makeshift humidifier inside a guitar case. Ensure the sponge is only slightly damp to avoid over-humidifying.

  • Silica Gel Packs: These can be used to absorb excess moisture in humid environments. Place a few packs inside the guitar case to help keep humidity levels in check.

  • Rice: Similar to silica gel, placing a small container of uncooked rice in the guitar case can help absorb moisture.

Seasonal Considerations

Humidity levels can vary significantly with the seasons, requiring different strategies throughout the year.


In many parts of the USA and Europe, winter brings dry indoor air due to heating systems. During this time:

  • Use Humidifiers: Increase the use of room and case humidifiers.

  • Monitor More Frequently: Check humidity levels more frequently to ensure they don’t drop too low.


Summers can bring high humidity, particularly in coastal and southeastern regions of the USA and parts of Northern Europe. During this time:

  • Use Dehumidifiers: Run dehumidifiers to keep the humidity at a stable level.

  • Avoid Direct Sunlight: Store guitars away from direct sunlight, which can increase temperature and humidity levels inside the case.

Why You Should NOT leave you guitar in its case!

Most hard cases are composed of wood. As we have already established, water can be absorbed in to wood in high-humidity climates. The case absorbs water, which in turn is then absorbed by your guitar!

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