By Stephen Pate – Unless your guitar is a campfire cheapo, it needs humidification during the heating season. It’s one of those annoying things to do in winter like wear your mits and hat on cold days.
We had a late start to winter in Prince Edward Island, Canada but the heat has been on steady for a few weeks and the air in the house is dry. That means my beloved guitars are drying out. The tops, back and sides shrink, the Fretboard shrinks and the guitar goes into distress. I’ve seen it all including split necks, the bridge lifting and ugly cracks in the back and top.
The damage to the thin woods in your guitar does not normally happen over one winter but before long you will start to see the damage. That being said, a new guitar can get damaged in one dry winter.
Your frets will feel sharp on the ends because the wood in the fretboard is shrinking. The bridge will start to lift. First the wood bows out then the glue joints start to give way.
Guitars need at about 45% relative humidity to keep the wood in tone, the joints glued and the guitar from being destroyed over time.
The other side of being dry is also bad – too much humidity can be more damaging. I was in the Moncton, NB Long and McQuade guitar store last week and the smell of mold in the air told me they had the humidity too high. One quick look at the humidifier and I spotted tons of black mold.
Those guitars were in trouble. Anyone who buys one of those guitars will have a lifetime personal mold collection inside the guitar.
Herco and Kyser guitar humidifier
Last year I bought a variety of guitar humidifiers from Herco, Kyser and Oasis to try.
The Herco Guitar Humidifier is a guitar case humidifier. You saturate the clay inside the plastic container and place the Herco in the case with your guitar.
Make sure the Herco does not touch the guitar, close the case and your guitar should be safe for weeks if not months.
I would check it every two weeks. In my Gibson ES-335 guitar case, the Herco lasted more than a month without a refill.
Just to be sure, I kept a Oasis Digital Hygrometer with case clip and or a Planet Waves Hygrometer Humidity And Temperature Sensor in the guitar cases to check the humidity.
The Kyser Humidifier for Acoustic Guitars is a rubberized humidifier that covers the sound hole of an acoustic guitar.
Good: it seals the inside of the guitar. Bad – sometimes it leaks water onto the delicate guitar top and is tricky to remove in a hurry when you want to play the guitar. I only used this solution in a pinch.
None of these humidifiers are the ideal since I like to keep my guitars on the wall not in cases. Playing guitar is spontaneous and getting the guitars our of their cases ruins the mood.
Oasis Guitar Humidifier
My personal preference are the Oasis Guitar Humidifiers which come in regular (OH-1), guitar case (OH-6), and dry climate (Plus ) versions.
All three Oasis humidifiers follow the same principle – the tube holds crystals that absorb water and release the moisture slowly into the air humidifying the guitar. The tube is filled with water, preferably distilled, using a syringe.
Dry everything off and place the humidifier in the sound hole or case, depending on the model.
Normally I re-fill the tube once a week but it’s easy if it needs more water, since the tube shrinks when empty.
I just found out you can order the crystals and replenish them annual from http://oasishumidifiers.com/.
The $6.95 kit will refill 6-8 humidifiers. The sent me a free replacement for the string support bar I lost over the summer which is great customer service.
Oasis OH-1 Guitar Humidifier
The Oasis OH-1 Guitar Humidifier (pictured above) is designed for acoustic guitars. It mounts between the strings in the sound hole, hence there is no clip.
It works like a charm and is easy to remove when you want to play, not something I can say about the Kyser.
Oasis OH-5 Plus Humidifier
The Oasis OH-1 is very dry homes were the relative humidity falls below 25%. The Oasis Plus Humidifier has 50% more humidity output if you need it, say in New Mexico or Arizona.
Using it might overload your guitar when your home is not very dry.
Oasis OH-6 Case Humidifiers
The Oasis OH-6 Case Humidifier fits in your guitar case and has a magnetic strip in the tube and metal clip. Not every case has the place to put this.
If I am putting a guitar away for the winter, I use the Herco. If I will play the guitar frequently but keep it in a case, I use the Oasis OH-6.
Oasis also has special instrument humidifiers such as the Oasis Case Plus Humidifier, Oasis Mandolin Humidifier, Oasis Ukulele Humidifier, and OH-21 double bass humidifier. Since I haven’t tried the OH-21 I can’t tell you if it works or not. If you buy the OH-21 from Amazon.com and it does not work, you can return it.
Oasis OH-6 Case Humidifier with OH-2 Digital Hygrometer
The Oasis OH-6 Case Humidifier with OH-2 Digital Hygrometer is the OH-6 with a hygrometer to see how your guitar case humidifier system is working.
I got one of these and several of the other humidifiers. I move the hygrometer from case to case to check on how things are going.
Other than running out of water, the Oasis systems have not given me any trouble. They do their job.
By itself, the Oasis OH-2 Digital Hygrometer w/clip is $29.
If you live in Canada, try Amazon.ca: it may be less expensive to buy from them with free freight, no exchange and border crossing fees.
By themselves, the humidifiers don’t do the whole job. I also keep a room humidifier running. After years with several makes and models, I prefer the Essick Air H12-400HB 3-Speed Whole House Evaporative Console Humidifier but that’s another story.
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