How Long Does it Take for Humidity to Damage a Guitar?

Wood retains some of its characteristics as a tree. To maintain equilibrium with its surroundings, wood absorbs and lets out moisture. This process is known as hygroscopy. Therefore guitar owners sometimes need to control their environment’s moisture level to protect their guitar from damage. So, how long does it take for humidity and moisture to hurt your guitar?

A guitar will take damage after being out in the atmosphere for several weeks in a place with extremely high humidity (80–90%). However, it can take several months in an area with medium-high humidity (60–70%). A range of (45 to 55%) relative humidity (RH) is the recommended humidity level for storing your guitar.

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Damage due to humidity doesn’t occur for a few weeks unless the moisture level and the exposure time increase. The seriousness of damage depends upon multiple factors and appears in several ways. Let’s discuss the impact of moisture on a guitar and the symptoms of wetness. 

How Moisture & Humidity Impacts Your Guitar?

Guitars are made of different kinds of wood which varies in quality. Some of them are more hygroscopic than other kinds of wood and are more prone to contraction and expansion. Different forms of wood vary in how fast they get affected by the environment.

As a general rule, softwood does not contract or swell as much as hardwood does. The differences exist because of the wood’s inherent dimensional stability.

Since wood can change its structure and mechanical properties because of the environment, you can get different acoustical vibrations.

Here’s what happens to wood in high levels of moisture:

  • A lower dynamic elastic modulus 
  • A higher loss tangent

Which basically means that your guitar will face internal strains that’ll change the way it sounds.

High humidity doesn’t often cause wood to break as low humidity does. 

However, the negative impacts can still be just as harmful and occasionally more expensive to fix. A guitar’s wood can expand significantly, leading to:

  • Glue joint failure
  • Guitar’s finish peeling off
  • Improper neck angles

Even when other damages have been fixed, wood distortions might still exist, leaving the instrument with visual flaws. The additional water weight that the wood is carrying in guitars that are overly “wet” can cause them to sound lifeless and dull.

Observable Symptoms of a Wet Guitar

Any humidified instrument is referred to as a “wet guitar.” To tell that your guitar is affected by water, look closely at the neck angle, top/back angle, and the bridge angle.

The most obvious change on your guitar is on the top and back of it. It appears as an arch. However, don’t be confused if your neck seems slightly arched without any water damage. Some acoustic guitars are designed with it. The Taylor Big Baby is an example.

A simple list of the warning indications of a “wet guitar” is provided below:

SymptomDetail
1Unusual high-speed guitar picking 
2Fret ends, and nuts might contract
3Joints in cracks start to swell
4Glue joints will break down
5A deformed neck angle (neck warp)
6“Rising tongue” on guitar neck
7Dull tone and reduced sound projection
8High action. Exceptionally high-off-the-fretboard strings that are challenging to play
9The instrument has a flat, lifeless tone
10An odd warp towards the glued end block

It’s recommended to avoid diagnosing your guitars with issues by guitarists, unless they’re knowledgeable of the process.

Note: If you have a severely damaged guitar, it’s best to avoid performing DIY fixes or following YouTube tutorials. You can make a bad situation worse if an expert doesn’t have a look at it.

How To Protect Your Guitar From Humidity?

As long as the instrument is quickly put away in a hard shell cover after usage, very brief exposure to humid environments (or arid climates) is acceptable. Soft cases and gig bags of inferior quality are not enough. 

It might take up to 5 days of continuous high exposure for the humidity effects to appear on a guitar. The appropriate humidity range, often between 45 and 55 percent, is advised by all guitar manufacturers. 

However, unless they are prepared to take significant measures to achieve it, it is impractical for guitarists to sustain that humidity level for a house or a room.

There is a more simple way to accomplish this task. Make the guitar case’s interior a microclimate. Purchase a functional guitar humidifier, and maintain the RH levels. 

Here are some crucial suggestions for safeguarding your instrument:

  1. Adequate Storage

Dark, warm, and damp rooms can damage your guitar’s wood. Storing your guitar in places like a basement or your car’s trunk should be avoided.

It’s better to store your guitar near an air conditioner because it balances out the moisture in the air, specifically if you live in a high moisture area. 

The best tip for suitable storage space would be a hard case for your guitar. You can easily purchase a hard case online or visit the nearest music store in your area. 

Click on this link to see a list of hard cases available online and choose the most suitable one for your guitar!

  1. Desiccants

A lot of guitars come with pre-packaged desiccants. These are mostly silica gel packs. They’re main purpose is to absorb extra moisture and increase dryness by providing a dry atmosphere.

It’s also important to avoid storing your guitar in its case all the time. Storing in the cover for too long can eventually dry out the wood. This can cause fractures and cracks on the guitar’s surface. Let your guitar breathe some fresh air every now and then.

Note: A desiccant should only be used if the guitar becomes wet.

  1. Cleaning Up & Detuning Your Guitar

After you’re done playing, keep a good quality lint-free piece of cloth to clean your guitar. This will help you remove any dirt or sweat that your guitar might’ve accumulated over the time you were using it. 

Lastly, detune your strings if you live in a high moisture area to release tension off the neck. 

FAQs

Q. Can a Wet Electric Guitar Experience Damage?

In particular, if their electrical components are still turned on, wet electric guitars might experience damage. Otherwise, drying out all the water and preserving your instrument is possible. The most significant piece of advice is to always keep your equipment dry and away from moisture.

Q. What Is the Humidity Level That’s Best for Guitars?

This is a property of wood. The relative humidity is said to be best at around 50% for preserving hardwood goods like guitars. The likelihood that guitars may sustain damage is reduced if the relative humidity stays at or below 50%.

Final Thoughts

The environment is continuously changing, both within and outside of your home. You should always store your fancy acoustic guitar, along with any humidity-controlling equipment you may have chosen, within a sealed case while not in use. This creates a more stable “microclimate” for your instrument that is separate from the chaos occurring everywhere else.

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