Whether you’re a cigar aficionado or you’ve just started smoking stogies, it’s always exciting when you get a new humidor.
Just make sure that in your excitement, you don’t put your cigars in right away. Before you use the humidor, you need to season it. You should also do this with old humidors that you haven’t used lately.
Why do you need to season a humidor? The wood in your humidor helps maintain a humid atmosphere inside and keep your cigars fresh. But it can only do that if you season it first. Otherwise, the dry wood is going to take the moisture from your cigars, causing them to dry out and ruining their taste. You definitely don’t want to get a beautiful new humidor only to have it ruin your favorite cigars.
Now, when it comes to seasoning a humidor, there are different schools of thought in certain areas. This guide will let you know which areas are debated so you can make your own call. Of course, it’s always a good idea to go with the manufacturer’s instructions when in doubt.
Before you get started with seasoning your humidor, there’s one other step you should take first.
Calibrating Your Hygrometer
Your hygrometer measures the humidity in your humidor, which means you need to make sure it’s giving you accurate readings. To check it, get either a shot glass or a plastic bottlecap and fill it with about a teaspoon of salt. Add a few drops of water – you want enough to make the water damp, but not so much that the water dissolves.
Put this mixture in a sealable plastic bag with the hygrometer. Seal the bag up, but leave a bit of air inside.
Look through the bag after about six to eight hours to see what the hygrometer reads. The mixture of salt and water will give the atmosphere inside the bag a humidity level of 75 percent. If your hygrometer reads any differently, adjust it to 75 percent so it’s accurate.
1. Dampen the Inside of the Humidor
This first step is optional. It will make the process a bit faster, but you need to be careful to avoid damaging your humidor.
Get either a cloth or a sponge and soak it with distilled water. It’s important to use distilled water and not tap water. Tap water has minerals in it, and these can leave deposits in your humidor and the humidification device. Wring the cloth or sponge out if it gets too wet. You also want to use a new cloth or sponge that hasn’t had any soap or dirt on it, which can also cause damage to the humidor.
Use the cloth or sponge to gently wipe down the entire interior of the humidor. The goal is to dampen the inside of the humidor without getting it too wet. Excess water can damage the wood.
If you don’t want to bother with this, you can skip to the next step. You’ll still be able to season your humidor correctly, it will just take longer to reach the proper humidity.
2. Prepare Your Humidification Device
Your humidor likely came with a humidification device, which is what keeps it at the proper humidity. You need to soak it with an activating solution (typically a solution with propylene glycol) or distilled water.
After you soak the humidification device, wipe it off and place it on a towel for at least a few minutes. This ensures that it doesn’t drip any liquid inside your humidor.
Remember to check the instructions that came with the humidification device, as certain devices will come pre-filled and not require any activating solution or distilled water.
Most humidors will come with a green foam humidification device. Although these work, they often don’t quite hit optimal humidity and you need to refill them often. Consider upgrading your humidification device for better results. Gel humidification devices tend to work very well and are inexpensive.
After your humidification device is ready, put it inside the humidor.
3. Place a Seasoning Agent in the Humidor
“Seasoning agent” may sound fancy, but it’s really just a water source that can help get your humidor to the correct humidity level. The most popular options are a sponge that has been soaked with water or a small glass of water (again, using only distilled water).
Whichever option you choose, it’s important that water doesn’t leak onto the wood. If you go with a sponge, you’ll want to make sure it’s damp, not soaking wet, and put it on top of plastic wrap. If you go with a cup of water, just make sure that your humidor is in a safe place where there’s no risk of an impact knocking over the water cup inside.
After you have the seasoning agent and the humidification device in your humidor, you can close it up and begin the waiting process.
4. Let the Humidor Reach the Right Humidity
The optimal humidity for a humidor is at about 70 percent, but anywhere in the 65 to 73 percent range will keep your cigars in good shape.
With the humidification device providing moisture, it will gradually raise the humidity level in your humidor. How long this process takes will depend on several factors, chief among them the climate. If you live in a dry area, it will take longer for the humidity to increase and you may even want to use more than one humidification device.
You can take the seasoning agent out of your humidor after the first 24 to 48 hours. If you want, you can also wipe the inside of the humidor down again, but this isn’t necessary.
After you remove the seasoning agent, keep your humidor cigar-free for another 24 hours. As long as the humidity is in that acceptable range after that, go ahead and add your cigars.
5. Monitor the Humidity
Your humidor should stay at a stable humidity. If you notice the humidity dropping, the most likely reason is that you need to recharge your humidification device. Simply take it out, use either distilled water or activating solution, let it dry, and then put it back in the humidor.
There are a couple other reasons that you could notice the humidity dropping:
One common issue is that you’ve blocked the humidification device with your cigars. Move the cigars out of the way and this won’t be a problem.
Less common is an issue with your humidor’s seal. With a quality humidor, this is unlikely, but you should still check. Open your humidor, place a dollar bill where it opens, and close the humidor. Gently tug the dollar bill. If it doesn’t move, that indicates a tight seal.
Although any humidor will require a bit of setup, once you’ve done that properly, you’ll have the peace of mind that any cigars you put in there will keep their flavor. Check your humidor from time to time, recharge the humidification device when you need to and enjoy your cigars!