If you live anywhere that goes through dry seasons, you’ve probably felt how dry air can affect your skin and make you ridiculously thirsty. If it gets cold where you live and you crank the heat at home, you may have even put a humidifier in your bedroom to make the air more pleasant to breathe.
Well, guess what—if you’re affected by dry air, there’s a good chance your ukulele is being affected, too.
In fact, all wooden instruments (not just ukuleles) are vulnerable to extreme levels of dryness and humidity. That’s where ukulele humidifiers come in.
Why Would Someone Use a Ukulele Humidifier?
If a solid wood instrument is exposed to air that’s too dry, the wood can warp or even crack, resulting in irreversible damage to your instrument. This happens because the moisture that’s remained inside the wood starts to “bleed” out into the air, and that creates shrinkage and cracking. While high levels of humidity can also affect the wood, dryness is generally the bigger problem, and damage from dry air is more common than damage from excessively humid air.
Here are a few signs that your ukulele has been exposed to too much dry air:
- Low action (the strings are getting closer to the fretboard).
- The fret ends feel sharp.
- The bridge area seems to have dipped.
- There are cracks or splits in the joints of the wood or anywhere on the body.
Note that a laminate uke can also suffer due to humidity. A laminate won’t crack, but it can warp. The top can sink in, the neck can warp, and you can get sharp fret ends just like with a solid wood uke.
The ideal humidity range for a ukulele is between about 40% and 55%. You can track the humidity levels in your area using this map. This will give you a good idea of whether you live in a place that’s generally too dry for your instrument.
However, since you don’t store your instrument outdoors, the weather report is less important than the humidity inside your home. That’s why most experienced musicians recommend putting a hydrometer into your ukulele case to measure the humidity in the immediate vicinity.
If you’re seeing numbers below about 40%, it is time to look into getting a humidifier.
Why Would Someone NOT Need a Ukulele Humidifier?
You do not need a humidifier if:
- You have a super inexpensive laminate ukulele that you’re not especially interested in preserving in the long term.
- You live in a temperate climate that’s not extremely dry or extremely cold (causing you to turn up the heat) at any time of year.
- You’re fortunate enough to have a humidity-controlled studio.
- You have a small, enclosed room where you can store your instrument with a room humidifier that’s running throughout the dry season.
Applying humidity to an instrument that doesn’t need it can cause warping in the wood as well, so be sure to use a humidifier only if you actually need one. Again, the best way to know for sure is to use a hydrometer.
Now without further ado, here are our top three ukulele humidifiers!
Our Top 3 Ukulele Humidifiers
These are three totally different, but all great, humidifiers that are available for ukuleles. Please note that ALL of these humidifiers are designed to work inside of a ukulele case, not out in the open or on a stand. They’re meant to humidify a small enclosed space, not an entire room.
1. The Oasis OH-18 Ukulele Humidifier ($20)
The Oasis OH-18 is probably the most frequently recommended ukulele humidifier. After creating one of the most popular guitar humidifiers (called the OH-1), Oasis built this humidifier especially for the ukulele.
In contrast to the OH-1 guitar humidifier, the OH-18 has a different, special hanger that keeps it at an angle from the strings inside the soundhole. Also, because a ukulele is smaller than a guitar, it needs less supplemental humidification. To accommodate the difference, Oasis modified the liner for the OH-18 ukulele humidifier. The OH-18 comes with the special ukulele stabilizer and a 10cc syringe for filling the humidifier with water.
When using the Oasis, the company recommends using distilled water only. After the initial filling, you’ll need to top up the humidifier about once a week. Additionally, you’ll need to replace the Humigel crystals for $9 about once a year.
Overall, the Oasis is easy to use and reasonably low maintenance. One nice thing about the Oasis is that it’s easy to see, just by looking at it, whether it needs to be refilled.
2. The Music Nomad MN302 Humilele Ukulele Humidifier ($10)
The Music Nomad MN302 is the most popular humidifier with this design. The design is based on a high-absorption sponge contained in a pod, which is suspended on your uke strings above the sound hole. To check whether the sponge needs to be soaked again, you can simply flip up the top and look at it. If it’s dry, soak it. If it’s wet, leave it. It can’t get much easier than that!
Sometimes, the sponges can get moldy or become less absorbent. In that case, you can grab a replacement sponge for $6. Similarly to the Oasis, the Music Nomad MC302 should be used with distilled water for best results.
3. Boveda 2-Way Humidity Control System ($30)
The Boveda system works a bit differently from other ukulele humidifiers, and it’s pretty cool. The company itself doesn’t specialize in musical instruments: they specialize in humidity control. They developed a patented system that’s designed to protect and store all kinds of things, including cigars, tobacco, herbs, and humidity-sensitive foods, such as nuts and dried fruit.
Boveda’s product is not a humidifier, but rather a two-way humidity control system—the world’s first, according to the company.
Yes, that means it will actually add and remove moisture as needed, protecting your instrument from excess dryness as well as excess humidity. Within a closed case, the system will maintain a constant level of humidity between 40% and 50%.
With the Boveda system we linked to above, you get four replaceable packets that you put inside of soft, leak-resistant fabric pouches. One of the pouches goes around your strings above the sound hole, and the other goes near your headstock at the top of your case. You need to use both packets a time.
Inside the packets, there’s a specially prepared saturated solution of water and salts, contained in a water-vapor permeable “reverse osmosis” membrane. Applying the scientific principle that certain salts mixed with water will naturally regulate humidity, the packets absorb and release only purified water vapor through that semipermeable membrane.
According to Boveda, the packets will last between two and six months before they need to be replaced. You’ll know they’re “spent” just by touching them. If they’re used up, they will have hardened and lost the moisture inside.
This isn’t your typical ukulele humidifier, and it’s more expensive than the other two options. However, people who do choose to use the Boveda system love how low-maintenance it is and the fact that it controls for both dryness and excess moisture.
Ukulele Humidifier Myths
Over the years, we’ve heard some pretty wild myths regarding humidity control that are worth dispelling here.
MYTH #1: If I have a case, I don’t need a humidifier.
It’s not clear where this myth originated, but it’s totally false. Having a nice case for your uke will protect it to some extent, but it won’t maintain humidity levels when the air gets dry.
MYTH #2: If I have a laminate uke, I don’t need a humidifier.
As we mentioned earlier in this article, a laminate uke can still be affected by humidity—it’s just not as severe as the damage you’ll see on a solid wood instrument.
MYTH #3: I absolutely need a hard case, not a soft case, if I want to control humidity.
If you have a decent soft case, you’re fine. Stored indoors in a reasonable-quality gig bag with a humidifier, almost any uke will be perfectly safe and sound.
A Few Other Important Ukulele Care Tips
Sometimes, people blame humidity for problems that they’re seeing for unrelated reasons. If your ukulele sounds wonky, don’t assume it’s been permanently damaged by the weather.
Instead, first think back to the last time you replaced your strings. To keep it sounding great and in tune, you’ll want to replace your strings at least twice a year.
To prevent damage, never store your ukulele directly near a fireplace, radiator, or heater. Just like you wouldn’t leave it out in a hot car, don’t put it somewhere near too much heat. You’re just asking for warping, loosening glue, etc.
Use an instrument cleaner, not furniture polish, to clean your uke. The finish and even the wood can be damaged if you use household products that aren’t made for instrument cleaning. Use a very soft cloth (we like microfiber) to avoid damaging the finish.
P.S., for the DIY crowd…
For beginners, we always recommend choosing one of the humidifier options we listed above. However, it’s worth mentioning that some hobbyists have found ways to make a DIY humidifier that can work just as well. So, that’s an option if DIY is your jam.
Thanks for reading!
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