All guitars react to changes in temperature and humidity, higher end models even more so. Because treated or untreated, any piece of wood and/metal expands or contracts with heat or moisture levels changing in the atmosphere they are in.
(Infographics at the bottom of this article)
The Best Humidity Level for Guitars
While some guitarists live in a more stable climate zone, here in Switzerland conditions have become unpredictable (thank you climate change..). With the last snow of spring being rapidly followed by a heat-wave that can be washed away by a 20°C temperature drop within just days. This constant change in weather can cause guitars to dry out or even take on more water from the atmosphere than they should. Especially when putting on your heaters, the air in your house tends to get damp. Therefore it is recommended to always store your guitar in the case, when it’s not in use. This way your guitar will be protected from too much moisture in the air. Especially hard cases offer great resistance to outside temperatures.
It is recommended to keep your guitar in an environment with a humidity of 40-50%, for it to perform ideally. If it is exposed to higher humidity for a substantial period of time, it may cause your guitar to swell, as it takes on too much water. (Besides, you’ll be spending a fortune on strings..) If the humidity level is constantly below 40%, the drought may result in cracks appearing in the wood.
How To Combat Humidity Issues
40-50% is the same humidity level often recommended for health and comfort in the house. So to combat outliers in humidity, you can do what you might do for your comfort anyway and bring a humidifier or dehumidifier into play. And if you live somewhere, where high levels of humidity simply can’t be avoided, we recommend to always store your guitar in a hard case, with a few small packets of silica gel, that will soak up the moisture. But make sure to replace them regularly.
Best Temperature Levels for Guitars
The perfect temperatures for your guitars are somewhere in the range of 21-24°C or 70-74°F. Again, this is most likely the temperature level you want in your home anyway. Make sure to avoid exposure to temperatures above or below for any substantial period of time. Make sure to never leave your guitars in close proximity to a radiator, open windows, air conditioners or too much sunlight. The air in your basement and attic are not as easy to control and might not be a great fit as a guitar storage space.
Flying With a Guitar
If you’re touring via airplane, it’s always worth arguing with the flight crew over taking your guitar on board. Many airlines now allow you to bring your guitar on board as a carry-on anyway. So do your research, but prepare for the worst, as we all have seen how rowdy your beloved instrument might be treated. Give it some extra padding in the case. In fact, stuff it like a turkey, so there’s no wiggle room in the case at all. And always loosen the strings of your guitar. Temperature and pressure changes in flight can put enough stress on a guitar to snap its neck – unless your strings are loose.
Touring with a car/van
If you’re touring with a car or van, don’t leave your guitars in the trunk/boot as they can overheat when the sun beats down and freeze up when it’s too cold. When you’ve been driving for hours and get into a venue with quite a different temperature or humidity level than outside, it’s a good idea to bring it inside in the case and leave it in there to warm up or cool down for a while to adjust to room temperature. Opening it with a shock may cause some damage to the guitar. This helps with tuning and keeps the guitars save.