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Can Fluctuations In Humidity Cause Damage?

Ashley — Feb 27, 2015 07:09AM HST

I have heard from a reputable luthier that it is the fluctuation in humidity that is dangerous so if the humidity is around 25% or so in your house, you shouldn't humidify your instrument because the change (in and out of the case) is what can cause damage. What are your thoughts on this?

1 Community Answers

Joel - Apr 08, 2015 at 12:02AM HST

The Ukulele Site Agent

Extreme changes in temperature and humidity can cause damage, but he problem is usually when the instrument is taken from the stable controlled environment (the humidified case) into a less stable or controlled environment like a house or outdoors. In most cases this is fine as long as the instrument returns back to its case when its not in use. The short period of time it will be exposed to drier conditions is fine as long as the instrument does not have time to dry out to the point of damage. But if the instrument is left out for an extended period of time in a much drier environment, the wood will eventually dry out and can lead to cracking, warping, necks developing a back-bow, exposing fret ends, ect.

The opposite can also happen if the instrument is exposed to extreme humidity for an extended period of time. The wood will swell and you can wind up with another host of problems. That is why it is recommended to consistently monitor and store your instrument in a controlled environment like a humidified (or dehumidified) case, or controlled room. Most instruments are built in a factory with a controlled environment, where the wood has acclimated and is being setup and assembled under those conditions. If the instrument is to remain in similar condition to how it was initially constructed, similar environmental conditions need to be maintained. In most cases that number is between 40%-60% relative humidity. 25% relative humidity is considered quite low for most ukuleles. Especially if your instrument was built in Hawaii or another humid climate, if it had time to adapt to the natural climate after it left the factory it would be even more sensitive to low humidity levels. I would recommend using a humidifier inside of your case, the instrument will be fine being brought out into the drier home to play as long as its returned to its humidified case when your done playing with it.

Where you would also want to be careful is in regards to temperature. When we ship instrument during winter, we recommend that before opening the package after its been delivered, you should leave the box closed and let it warm to the indoor temperature before you open it and then remove the instrument from the case but returning it shortly after, letting it acclimate slowly. The shock from the ukulele being in the cold and brought into a warm dry home can have dramatic results. If you travel with your instruments and are taking them in and out of opposite conditions you should take care in letting them acclimate a little. The less stress on the instrument, the longer it will last and the more consistent it will play for you.

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