Humidors are specialized containers designed to store and preserve cigars, tobacco leaves, and other items that require a specific level of humidity to maintain their quality. They are essential for cigar aficionados who want to ensure their cigars remain fresh and flavorful for an extended period. But how do humidors work?

Whether you’re a seasoned cigar smoker or simply curious about the art of cigar storage, understanding how humidors work is an important part of enjoying these luxury items. So, in this article, we’ll explore the science behind humidors, including the parts, the different types available, and how to use them.

What Is A Humidor?

A humidor is a box or room designed to keep cigars fresh and properly stored. It is typically made of wood, glass, or metal and includes a humidification system to regulate the humidity level inside.

Humidors are usually made with a Spanish cedar lining, an aromatic type of wood that absorbs excess water and maintains a certain level of humidity. They can range in size from small boxes that hold a few dozen cigars to large rooms that store thousands.

Humidors typically have a lid, an interior, a hygrometer, and a humidification device. The hygrometer measures the relative humidity in the humidor, while the humidification device keeps the humidity at the desired level.

The ideal environment for cigars is between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, with a relative humidity of 70%.

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How Do Humidors Work?

To understand how humidors work, you must learn about its different parts and their functions. A humidor has some key components that are essential for its functioning, including the lid, interior, hygrometer, and humidification device. 


The lid is one of the most important components of a humidor. It is usually made of Spanish cedar, a type of wood that is known for its ability to absorb excess moisture. It also helps maintain the optimal humidity level for cigars.

The lid should have a proper seal to keep the humidity level consistent and prevent excess water from entering the humidor.


The interior is typically made of Spanish cedar, also known as Cedrela odorata. It is a wood type highly valued for its aroma, durability, and moisture-absorbing properties. The use of Spanish cedar is considered an industry standard and is a hallmark of high-end cigar humidors.

The porous nature of Spanish cedar allows it to absorb moisture from the humidifier and release it slowly into the air. This helps regulate the humidity level inside the humidor. Additionally, the natural oils and resin in the wood can repel insects and prevent mold growth, further preserving the quality of the fresh cigars.


A humidor hygrometer is a device used to measure the internal humidity levels of a humidor. To ensure accurate humidity readings, it should be placed in the central area of the humidor, away from the humidifier and any direct sources of moisture or heat.

Ideally, the hygrometer should be placed at the same level as the cigars, as the humidity level can vary at different heights in the humidor. It is also important to avoid touching the hygrometer with your hands, as the oils from your skin can affect the accuracy of the readings.

Many modern humidors come with a built-in hygrometer, while others require a separate device to be purchased and installed. Regardless of the type of hygrometer used, it is essential to regularly calibrate it to ensure accurate readings and maintain the ideal humidity level for cigars.

Humidification Device

The humidification device in a humidor is responsible for regulating and maintaining the humidity level inside the container. It is designed to add moisture to the air and keep it at a consistent level to preserve the quality of the cigars.

The most popular type of humidification device is a humidifier, which can be either active or passive. Active humidifiers use a motor or fan to circulate moisture into the air, while passive humidifiers rely on natural evaporation.

One of the most common types is the water-based humidifier, which uses a sponge or foam pad soaked in distilled water or a humidifying solution, such as propylene glycol. The moisture is then released into the air through small openings or perforations in the humidifier.

Another type of humidifier is the gel-based humidifier, which uses a gel that absorbs water and slowly releases moisture over time. Humidifiers are typically placed at the bottom of the humidor. Their effectiveness depends on the size of the container and the number of cigars stored inside.

Different Types of Humidors

Types of cigar humidors vary in size, style, materials, and cost. The most common are desktop, cabinet, and travel humidors. You will also find humidor bags, perfect for cigar aficionados on the go.

Desktop Humidor

A desktop humidor is a small, airtight container designed to store and preserve cigars. Typically made of wood and lined with Spanish cedar, it features a hygrometer and humidification system to maintain optimal humidity levels, around 70%, necessary for cigar preservation.

It can hold a varying number of cigars, and its compact size makes it ideal for personal use or a small collection.

Cabinet Humidor

Cabinet humidors are usually larger and more expensive than their desktop counterparts. These are a fantastic option for cigar experts with a large cigar collection or who need to store a few dozen cigars in ideal conditions.

They are typically made with Spanish cedar or mahogany and have an electronic humidifier and digital hygrometer to maintain the humidity levels. Unlike desktop humidors, cabinet humidors can be set up with multiple cedar shelves to store a variety of cigars in different humidity levels.

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Travel Humidor

Travel humidors are ideal for cigar aficionados who are on the go. They are made from heavy-duty plastic and are designed to be lightweight and portable.

They come with their own digital hygrometers, which help accurately measure the moisture content and humidity levels. These humidors also come with a single electronic humidifier and can hold up to a few dozen cigars, making them perfect for short trips.

Humidor Bags

Humidor bags are essentially a zippered pouch with a humidification unit and hygrometer. They provide the perfect environment for up to a dozen cigars to stay fresh.

Generally, they are made from a type of waxy canvas or synthetic material with a sealable zip or drawstring closure. They come in a variety of sizes and are ideal for travel, outdoor activities, or if you just want to store a few cigars for a short period of time.

Setting Up and Maintaining a Humidor

Once the humidor is set up, it’s important to properly maintain the device.

First, the hygrometer should be calibrated with a salt test to ensure the accuracy of the humidity readings. Then, the humidity levels should be maintained between 68 and 72% by adding moisture as necessary. 

Cleaning and replacing the humidification device is also recommended as part of regular maintenance. Lastly, for optimal conditions, it’s best to keep the humidor away from direct sunlight, heat, or any other sources of temperature fluctuation.

Calibrating the Hygrometer

To calibrate the hygrometer and ensure the humidity level is accurate, cigar aficionados should use the salt test.

To do this, place a teaspoon of salt in a bowl and add a few drops of distilled water so that the salt is slightly damp. Then, put the hygrometer in the bowl and wait for an hour. The hygrometer should read 75% relative humidity, indicating the accuracy of the device.

Maintaining the Humidity Level

To maintain the optimal humidity level in a humidor, you must monitor and adjust the humidity as needed. You can do this with a digital hygrometer, which measures the humidity levels.

Adding more distilled water or an electric humidifier can increase the humidity levels while absorbing excess moisture with a dry cloth or silica gel beads can reduce the levels. Depending on the type of humidor and its size, the humidity levels should be between 68 and 72%.

Cleaning and Replacing the Humidification Device

To keep your cigars fresh and your humidor functioning properly, it’s important to clean and replace the humidification unit. Depending on the type of humidor you own, this may include replacing sponges, refilling electric humidifiers, or replacing silica gel beads.

Additionally, you must empty any excess water from the humidor, as well as wipe down the interior walls with a damp cloth. If you notice any excess moisture or any signs of mold, it’s best to replace the humidification device to ensure optimal conditions for your cigar collection.

How To Store Cigars and Keep Them Fresh

Storing cigars in a humidor can be done in a few simple steps. 

Step 1: Check the humidity level.

Begin by ensuring the humidity level is at the correct level, generally around 70%, by calibrating the hygrometer. Do this by placing a damp cloth inside the humidor for around eight hours and then adjust the hygrometer accordingly.

Step 2: Add the cigars.

Once the humidity level is set, the cigars can be placed inside the humidor. To maintain the optimal conditions, cigars should not be stored in direct contact with the humidification device as this can result in too much moisture.

Instead, a removable tray should be used to hold the cigars in place. If a large cigar collection is being stored, it is important to rotate the cigars from time to time so that all cigars experience the same moisture level.

Step 3: Check the moisture level regularly.

Finally, check the moisture level regularly to prevent any excess moisture from damaging the cigars. Cigar aficionados and cigar shops also recommend using distilled water or a 50/50 distilled water and propylene glycol solution to fill up the humidification unit.

Ensure Freshness With A Cigar Humidor!

Understanding how do humidors work is essential to keep cigars fresh. Humidors are important for any cigar enthusiast who wants to enjoy the full flavor and aroma of their cigars.

By maintaining optimal humidity levels, they help preserve cigars and prevent them from drying out or becoming too moist. A humidification system, usually consisting of a humidifier and a hygrometer, helps regulate humidity levels and ensure they remain consistent.

Whether it’s a small desktop humidor for personal use or a large cabinet humidor for avid cigar collectors, investing in a good-quality humidor is crucial for any cigar lover. With proper care and maintenance, a well-functioning humidor can provide years of enjoyment and satisfaction.