Cigars in humidor

Cigar humidors come in all sizes and shapes. The accessories that come with them also vary from model to model. This is why setting up a new humidor box isn’t always as straightforward as one would hope. Some models will come with their hygrometer unassembled (and uncalibrated), while others will come ready out of the box.

No matter the state of the humidor, however, one thing you will absolutely have to do is season it. In this guide, we will learn how to season and set up your new humidor so that it works flawlessly and keeps your cigars in top condition!

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Before we dive deeper into this article, make sure you check out my ultimate guide on some of the best cigar humidifiers for your humidor box! Now, let’s jump into this!

Setting Up The Humidor For The First Time

When you get a brand new humidor from a respectable brand, typically it comes with tons of accessories in it that you have to unpack and assemble. In most cases these are:

  • Cigar hygrometer (either analogue or electronic)
  • Electronic or passive humidifiers
  • Humidifier gel jars or tubes
  • Humidifier solutions
  • Wooden Trays
  • Dividers
  • Cleaning materials

Some humidors can also come with calibration packages that will allow you to calibrate your hygrometer to 70% moisture so that you know it shows you the correct information. Still, all of these components play a vital role in the performance of a humidor and you should make sure that everything is in its place before you start seasoning the box. Some humidors will come pre-seasoned from the factory but you can never know how far ago that was done and how well-seasoned the box really is. So, in order for us to make sure that we season it properly, let’s go through that process together now…

How To Season Your Humidor

After you’re done doing all the initial steps and preparation, it is now time to season your humidor for the first time. Try to remember this process, as you will have to do it every now and then, based on the climate you live in. Areas with higher moisture levels won’t require you to season your humidor as often. However, if you live in a dry climate, the humidor will benefit from more frequent seasonings every 3-4 months. This will ensure that the stogies inside stay fresh and that they don’t lose their flavors and consistency. Here are the steps you will have to go through in order to season a new humidor:

  • Calibrating the humidor’s hygrometer
  • Fill or charge the humidifier
  • Humidify the humidor’s interior
  • Measure and adjust the humidity
  • Fill with your favorite cigars

Calibrating the humidor’s hygrometer

cigars next to a hygrometer

When getting a new humidor box, calibrating your humidor and its hygrometer is essential to the future quality of that box. You can learn how to do that in my step-by-step guide on the topic. In general, that process takes about a day, which is plenty of time for us to do all the other steps on this list. Have in mind that some digital hygrometers can be calibrated as quickly as 4 hours, which is even better. They are also more accurate, so if you are wondering between two humidors and one has an electronic hygrometer, that should be a big pro in its favor.

Fill or charge the humidifier

Filling your humidifier with a humidification solution is essential to the humidor’s seasoning. Most humidification units need to be filled with a 50/50 solution which is basically propylene glycol. Normal foam humidifiers can also be dipped into distilled water. Tap water creates mold and should never be used. Propylene glycol is the best solution for this case and it is widely available so it shouldn’t be an issue getting a bottle of it. It dissipates slower into the arid around it, making it a better humidification method over distilled water.

If you have a humidifier with a tank that needs to be filled, take it out and fill it with propylene glycol or distilled water. Make sure there is no excess liquid dripping from the unit or around it. This can cause the cigars to over-humidify which can ruin them. When you are done with all of this, put the unit back into the humidor.

Humidify the humidor’s interior

When it comes to humidifying the box’s interior, there are two methods. If you want to get things done quickly, you can wipe down the interior wood with a soft cloth damp in distilled water. On the other hand, you can do things a bit more gradually, which most people argue is safer. To do that, you will need to have a small sponge dipped into distilled water or propylene glycol. Make sure the sponge isn’t dripping wet but just slightly damp. Put it inside the humidor on top of a plastic zip-lock bag. That way you avoid direct contact with the wood. If the humidor comes with a tray and a divider, you can leave that inside as well.

After you are done putting the sponge inside, close the lid of the humidor nicely and leave it for a few days. It should stay with the sponge and the humidifier inside for at least 2-3 days. That way, the wood will absorb the necessary amounts of moisture it needs to get properly seasoned. If you soak the sponge too much you risk over humidifying the wood which can ruin the box. Some people like to extend this process over the course of a few weeks, just to give the wood more time to absorb as much moisture as it needs. You can observe the hygrometer for any abnormalities during the process.

Measure and adjust the humidity

After those 2-3 days have passed, you need to check the humidity of the humidor. It shouldn’t read anything more than 80% relative humidity (RH). While you may think that this is a tad more than what the desired humidity should be (75%), you are forgetting that the cigars you put inside will draw some of that moisture into them, bring it back down to its normal range.

Depending on the interior wood of your humidor, it may take a bit longer for it to fully season. Some hardwood humidor boxes will take more than a week to season properly, while cedar boxes will take just a few days. If the whole process takes too long, you will need to open the humidor and re-fill the humidor solution and soak the sponge into propylene glycol or distilled water one more time. This can be repeated as much as you want or until you see the hygrometer stabilize around 80% RH.

Fill with your favorite cigars

Now that you’re done seasoning the humidor box, it is time for the best part of the whole process. When you see that the humidor has reached around 75 or 80% relative humidity, it is time to start packing it. One major mistake most beginners make is to pack their humidor to its maximum capacity. While this isn’t strictly forbidden, it is very bad for the conditions inside the box as it will be harder to maintain equal moisture and temperature for all the cigars. To get the most out of your humidor, try packing cigars up to 50-60% of its total capacity. That way, you ensure that they will stay fresh and healthy over the months!

In some cases, you might need to re-charge or swap the current humidifier in your humidor. Let’s talk about that now…

How to swap or charge the humidifier?

If you’re ready to load a new batch of cigars into the humidor, you might want to charge the humidifier again. Now, there are quite a lot of humidifier types out there. Some boxes use gel beads, some use liquid gel in a tray but most other models out there use a sponge in a plastic casing. Take out this sponge and dip it into distilled water. After that, leave it on a dry towel for 30 minutes. That way, the towel will remove any excess moisture from the sponge. This will prevent any accidental drips onto your cigars.

After you’re done with that, put the sponge back into its housing inside the humidor and tighten it up. Check if the hygrometer reads the right humidity levels and adjust accordingly if the moisture gets too high. Most sponges are designed in a way that they release just the right amount of humidity into the inside air so that it stays stable and within the limits. Other gels and liquid solutions are also designed to release enough humidity so that the box keeps its internal moisture in the necessary range.

Basic Humidor Maintenance Tips

When you’ve been using your humidor for a while, there will be certain things that you will have to take into account in order to keep it in a good shape. Here are some of my best tips:

  • Avoid storing the humidor under sunlight
  • Place the humidor box at a place where it can’t be knocked over
  • Don’t place anything on top of the humidor, especially large heavy objects
  • Always use a soft edgeless cloth towel to wipe down the humidor
  • Use beeswax or special furniture polish to clean the humidor
  • Avoid wiping the interior of the humidor, especially with damp cloths or anything that will moisten the wood

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you put any cigars in the humidor while seasoning it?

As we already discussed, during the seasoning process, the humidor box will release moisture into the air. This means that there is a big risk of it ruining your cigars, even if they’re wrapped in cellophane.

How often should you season your cigar humidor?

Depending on your area’s climate, you should season your humidor from multiple times per year to just once. Drier climates will require you to season the box up to 3 times per 12 months. If you live in a tropical country or somewhere with a lot of humidity, seasoning it once per year should do the job.

What happens if you don’t season your humidor?

Unseasoned humidor boxes pose a real threat to your cigars. Since the box itself will be drier than usual, it will actually take moisture from the air and absorb it into the wood. This will drastically reduce the interior moisture levels, which will result in dried-out cigars. With that, the cigars will be ultimately ruined, especially if they spend a longer period inside the humidor.

Can dry cigars be restored?

While most dry cigars are damaged beyond restoration, some can actually be saved if they aren’t too dry. Put them back in the humidor and wrap the box in a moist towel. Leave the box for a week or two and then take the cigars out. Now begins the slow process of equilibration of the cigar’s components which can last up to 1 full year in a well-maintained and calibrated humidor.

Final Words

Learning how to season and set up your humidor for the first time is going to be tricky. There are countless things you will have to take into consideration. For most beginners, the most important thing will be to get the hygrometer properly calibrated and making sure that they don’t damage the box.

If the humidor doesn’t come pre-assembled, you will need to take out all of its components and piece them together. This usually involves assembling the hygrometer, the wooden tray, and other accessories of the humidor. After you’re done doing that, you can get to the initial seasoning of the box that will allow it to control its moisture better in the long run.