Martin and Taylor guitar facebook groups are rife with images of what happens when you don’t humidify a guitar correctly: cracked faces, warping, etc. Prior to seeing these images, even I didn’t know that I needed to humidify my guitar. As a proud Martin D18 owner, I decided I wanted to protect my investment, so I promptly bought a humidifier for my guitar.
In an effort to help others, I’m going to share everything I learned about humidifying guitars. Why you should do it, how to do it, whether you can “over-humidify”, and the best guitar humidifier (and the one I personally bought/own).
But that said, there are a lot of nuances here. Do we really need to humidify every guitar we own?
Let’s explore by first looking at whether to humidify electric guitars, and then acoustic guitars:
Should You Humidify Electric Guitars?
While some guitarists disagree, my position is that you don’t need to humidify an electric guitar. From what I’ve learned, and in my own experience, the worst that can happen from an un-humidified electric guitar is often painless to resolve and just a rote maintenance task.
For example, the most common wood shrinkage that would occur from not humidifying an electric guitar would be very slight fingerboard shrinkage. However, this occurs over time with pretty much every guitar anyway, even if kept humidified. Filing down sharp frets is relatively simple guitar maintenance work that you can do yourself.
Furthermore, excess humidity can actually be bad for the electrical components in electric guitars.
As for the wood in the body of the guitar, it’s very unlikely you’ll have an issue here from not humidifying your electric guitar. The one exception might be hollow-body guitars, since the wood in the body is thinner and thus perhaps more prone to shrinking/expanding with humidity levels.
With solid body electrics, however, the wooden bodies are simply too thick for minor changes in humidity levels to really cause any effect over time. Thus, for the most part, you don’t need to humidify an electric guitar.
Should You Humidify Acoustic Guitars?
The real case for humidity comes when we turn to acoustic guitars. The tonewoods used to construct the guitar body are often thin and thus more prone to shrink or expand according to humidity levels.
Most experts and guitar manufacturers recommend keeping an acoustic guitar humidified at 45-55 percent relative humidity. This will help avoid cracks or splits in the finish, which can result from excess dryness.
This cracking most often happens in the “top” of the guitar. If the crack isn’t extreme, it can often be repaired by a skilled luthier, so much so that the tone of the guitar remains unaffected.
Still, it’s best practice to humidify your acoustic guitar to avoid this risk of warping and cracking in the first place.
How Do You Humidify a Guitar?
When it comes to deciding how to humidify your guitar, you have two main options to choose from: getting a room humidifier, or humidifying your guitar while it’s inside its case.
Let’s look at using a room humidifier first.
If you want to humidify your guitar with a room humidifier, the most important thing is to get one that allows you to adjust the humidity percentage. This is because you ideally want your guitar in a room at 45-55F% humidity. Simply dial in this setting on your humidifier, add water, and you should be good to go.
I personally think the LEVOIT humidifier is the best room humidifier for guitars:
It allows you to dial in the humidity percentage you want. It also has near-silent noise levels. Cheaper humidifiers are often noisy, don’t hold a lot of water, or don’t let you set the humidity level. So I recommend spending a little more on a high-quality room humidifier for your guitars.
Can You Humidify a Guitar in a Gig Bag or Case?
You don’t have to use a room humidifier. You can also choose to humidify your guitar inside of its gig bag or case. I personally prefer to use a case humidifier for my Martin D18. I only have one acoustic that I really need to humidify, so it was simpler and cheaper for me to just get an easy-to-use, in-case humidifier.
After doing a ton of research, I went with the Dampit, and I’m super happy with it. I’m convinced it’s the best in-case humidifier for acoustic guitars, and I’ll explain why below:
It may seem slightly expensive at first, compared to some other cheapo in-case humidifiers, but it’s really an excellent value. Those cheap humidifiers often require you to buy “hydration packs” to stock/replace the humidifier with. This cost can really add up over time. With the Dampit, you simply buy it once, and it will last you for years.
The thing to be aware of with this option is that you will need to consistently keep your guitar in its case for this to work. I’m perfectly fine with this, as I believe a guitar’s case is the safest place for it anyway.
However, other guitarists prefer to always have their guitars sitting out because it looks cool and inspires them to play. If that’s the case, you may want to go with a room humidifier like above.
Another reason to go with a room humidifier is if you own A LOT of acoustic guitars. If you own ten expensive acoustics, it can be annoying to constantly be changing out humidifiers inside their cases. It may be better to leave them out and just get a humidifier for the whole room instead.
Can You Over Humidify a Guitar?
Lastly, remember that it is possible to overdo anything in life. While humidity tends to be better than year-round dryness, you also don’t want to over humidify your guitar.
It’s best to keep humidity levels between 45-55% so you don’t risk over humidifying your guitar, as that too could potentially cause warping issues with the wood. Plus, your guitar strings will rust faster if humidity gets excessive (in my experience, anyway).
Ready to Get Better at Guitar, Faster?
Whenever you’re ready to take your guitar playing to the next level, check out a few of my favorite resources below:
The Best Acoustic Guitar Strings – A unique polymer coating makes these guitar strings last for months or even years at a time, making for an exceptional value. They provide the perfect mix of boom, range, twang, and brightness that acoustic music is known for. — CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE
The Best Acoustic Guitar – Beloved by everyone from Paul Simon to Gordon Lightfoot, the Martin D-18 is one of Martin’s most legendary guitars ever… It’s an excellent, premier quality acoustic guitar for bluegrass, country, folk, rock and more. This is also what I play myself — CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE
Chords, Tabs & Video Lessons for 100 Epic Songs – This free guide that I created for fellow guitarists gives you chords, tabs, and video lessons for the 100 best songs to learn on guitar… I spent many hours putting this guide together to help you get better at guitar, faster. — CLICK HERE TO GET IT FREE
Fingerpicking vs Flatpicking Guitar – Learn which picking style is right for YOU by exploring examples, history, and popular players of each style. Discover essential techniques and pros and cons of each approach. — CLICK HERE TO GET IT FREE