Keeping your guitar at the proper humidity level is a key factor in proper care for your instrument. Proper humidity levels can prevent a host of problems from simple changes in string height and playability to cracked woods and glue joint failures.
There are quite a few humidity care solutions in the marketplace that offer varying degrees of effectiveness and convenience. We will highlight 4 of the most common products with our assessment of their effectiveness and convenience based on experiences over decades of guitar servicing, playing and sales.
The Dampit humidifier has been around seemingly forever and the ubiquitous green tubes were one of the first commercial solutions for instrument humidity care.
The Dampit is a green rubber tube filled with a sponge material and perforated with holes. The humidifier is used by wetting the sponge material with water and wiping off any exess. An attached rubber stopper allows the tube to be inserted into the soundhole of the guitar and hung from the strings. Also included in the package is a clear plastic soundhole cover with a string to hang the Dampit inside the guitar.
This cover is meant to seal off the inside of the guitar so the wood can absorb the humidity and extend the service intervals between needing to wet the sponge material. In practice the soundhole cover mostly serves to produce scratches in the guitar finish around the soundhole and makes very little difference in the service interval. Simply keeping the instrument in a sealed case with the humidifier is a better option.
The Dampit humidier is better than no humidifier but there are far better solutions that leverage new technologies to provide better performance and longer service intervals. Additionally the soundhole cover does more harm than good over time.
The Oasis OH-1 is another humidifier option made to be hung in the soundhole while the instrument is in a case. The OH-1 was designed to be a leak proof and effective solution for instrument humidification that utilizes modern materials to release moisture to maintain optimum humidity.
The OH-1 is a tube constructed of multiple layers of a membrane liner and filled with proprietary Humidi-Gel crystals meant to contain the water and prevent leaks. At first this appears to be the perfect solution while in practice we have seen various types of product failures from minor to severe.
First off the membrane layers are very similar to the fabrics used in breathable waders for fishing such as Gore-Tex. Anyone who has owned and used these products is aware that they will eventually spring small leaks especially at wear areas or anywhere there are creases. For the Oasis OH-1 this has proven to be the case as the tube is made to shrink into a crinkled state when it is low on water. These crease areas become areas of moisture weepage with dampness of the fabric being the first sign of trouble.
As per design the Humidi-Gel crystals are meant to keep the water suspended so that major leakage does not occur. The problem is the crystals are meant to be replaced at least yearly and that was not well communicated when these humidifiers were a new product. Refills are not necessarily always widely available and most people neglect to perform periodic refills. Most times the first indication of trouble is a decent sized leak of water directly into the inside of the guitar.....not good!
At this time when purchasing an Oasis OH-1 there is a red lettered warning tag inside the box stating the need to replace the crystals as well as avoiding creases in the tube liner.
While the OH-1 does seem to have a following of users and even some past endorsement from guitar builders, we can only base are recommendations from extensive personal experiences over thousands of guitars and decades of servicing all types of string instruments.
Having dealt with a decent number of guitars damaged from these humidifiers and experiencing the manufacturer response to problems we do not recommend these humidifiers as there are better options available.
The Music Nomad MN-300 is an easy to use and highly effective instrument humidifier that is a well thought out no mess and safe solution for taking care of your instrument investments.
The MN-300 utilizes a technologically developed Humidi-Bar sponge that safely ad without mess holds substantially more water than competing products. This material also releases moisture as necessary to keep humidity levels even. This combination of capabilities means less worry about monitoring and refilling the cartridge and more time playing music.
Checking the cartridge is as easy as flipping up the lid and feeling the Humidi-Bar sponge. Still soft = good to go; hard = equals time to add moisture. Soaking the sponge material in water and patting off any excess is the extent of the refill process. Easy, quick, and it works.
One of the other things we have noticed on the MN-300 Humitar is the plastic housing for the Humid-Bar sponge is substantially better material and the hinge for the lid is solid and robust. We have been using dozens of these units for years in the repair shop for restoring instruments and for storing high end instruments and they are all still in perfect condition.
Regarding the Humidi-Bar sponge Music Nomad recommends using distilled water but we do not do so and have had very little problem with any sort of build up on the sponge. Even if buildup happens there are replacement Humidi-Bars available at very reasonable cost. Even with the extremely hard water we have here at the shop we still can go years without having to change the Humidi-Bar sponges. Based on this we feel it more cost effective to replace sponges as necessary than to pay for distilled water and the inconvenience of sourcing and storing it as a supply.
The MN-300 Humitar is an exceptionally well made and effective solution for keeping your guitar or instrument at proper humidity levels.
D'Addario has perhaps the most complete solution for keeping your instrument at the proper humidity level. The Humidipak system is the only instrument humidification product that offers two way protection for humidity levels. That means even if you are traveling with your instrument high or low humidity will not affect the woods as this system adds or removes humidity as needed.
The D'Addario Humidipak system utilizes replaceable packets that are inserted into durable and convenient pouches that can be placed into various areas of the instrument case. These packets are designed to maintain the optimum level of 45-50% relative humidity inside of the case and work in both directions; adding or reducing humidity as necessary.
The two way protection offered by the Humidipak system is extremely valuable if you are traveling with your instrument or live somewhere that experiences noticeable changes in humidity levels throughout the year. Another situation that arises is if your house uses forced air heating in the winter and a swamp cooler in the summer months. This combination can cause fairly drastic changes in the relative humidity within your house.
D'Addario has addressed these situations with an extremely convenient solution that offers very extended servicing intervals with the well thought out replaceable packet solution lasting months rather than days. No more refilling sponges or checking and re-checking humidity levels.
The tradeoff here is in the cost of buying service packets, but the convenience and two way protection may be well worth it.
Our 'Picks' for guitar humidifiers
Music Nomad MN-300 for an outstanding combination of performance, cost and ease of use.
D'Addario Humidipak for unique 2 way humidity protection and easy efficient convenience.