Dehumidifying your violin - is it good?

Edited: May 7, 2019, 10:32 AM · My city is wet, around an average humidity of 80% over the year. It’s been raining for weeks, i was told to keep the violin dry by putting extra drying agent inside of my case. Since then my violin is never in tune again. Pegs slipped.

I have a question. Is it really preferable to try to maintain the inside of your case a certain RH according to traditional wisdom? Would it hurt the instrument more to let humidity change every time you take it out and put it back?

I mean, if you practice every day, is there a point to put desiccant or humidifyer in the case? Does it help or harm?

Replies (14)

Edited: May 8, 2019, 4:20 AM · Not sure about the change over those practice hours. But there are several ways to dehumidify.

Air conditioning is one. Also, the Boveda humidity pouches are said to maintain constant RH-- adding moisture when it is dry out but also soaking it back in when it is damp. Don't have a lot of experience to verify, but the 49% packs keep my case pretty close to that.

May 7, 2019, 12:57 PM · I would just leave it be.

Trees are made of wood and they don't seem to mind the rain.

May 7, 2019, 1:58 PM · Just because trees don't mind rain doesn't mean extremes of humidity are fine for musical instruments.

May 7, 2019, 3:12 PM · I cannot comment on violins, but with cello, I definitely have to manage the relative humidity. I seek to maintain the studio rh at 50%, and the range of 40% through 60% is pretty well risk free. Cotton, it is not the wood that is damaged, but the glue. And, with the cello, the back can come unstuck.
May 7, 2019, 4:32 PM · I used to live in extreme humidity. The trees cherish the water-our instruments do not.
Edited: May 7, 2019, 5:21 PM · It's not the humidity, but the sudden change which causes damage. An instrument will survive at 90% humidity and at 10% humidity, but probably not going from one to the other in an hour.
May 7, 2019, 7:03 PM · Trees are not made of dead, aged, carved, and varnished wood. Really, Cotton, do you actually think about what you write, or are you just angling for a career as a shock jock?

Horace, the humidity pouches are likely silica gel. I can see those being pretty useful for someone in your situation. Violins adjust to these kinds of changes rather slowly. Until your scroll / pegbox adjusts to the decrease in humidity, your pegs will continue to slip. After that they should be fine.

Edited: May 8, 2019, 6:09 AM · Cotton, at high moisture levels such as 90%, the wood in an instrument becomes much more susceptible to bending and distortion from the string forces. This isn't as dramatic and sudden as cracking from low moisture levels, so it often goes unnoticed until the owner is facing a large repair bill.

Sudden changes in humidity seem to be well tolerated, as long as they are of short duration. For example, a violin goes into a moister environment every time it is played (the micro-climate surrounding ones body and under ones nose). But it takes some time for an instrument to gain or lose a large amount of moisture.

I don't allow the relative humidity in my shop to rise above 60%, or go below 40%.

May 8, 2019, 7:16 AM · Thank you all for the advice!!

So, do you recommend putting desiccant (like calcium chloride) inside the case if I can't afford a humidity-controlled studio? I heard that it's bad to do that because you can't control how much moisture it's absorbing?

May 8, 2019, 7:20 AM · Stephen, thanks! I'm searching for the "Boveda humidity pouches" you mentioned, it sounds wonderful
May 8, 2019, 7:29 AM · I lived in Taiwan for 2 years and during that time some glue came loose from the high humidity. The neck came loose from the box at the bottom such that the fingerboard was bent down by the tension of the strings and was touching the the top. I thought there must be lots of damage but no wood was actually split, just bent out of shape. The Taiwanese luthier had obviously seen this before and told us it was from the moisture. He glued it up nicely for me.

I have no idea how to keep moisture down other than air conditioning (remember that we lived in air conditioned rooms and it happened anyway. Also fungus developed on various pieces of luggage that was standing around unused and even on the the protective bag I have around my violin case!).

I am pretty sure introducing calcium chloride or a similar drying agent would end up in seriously over-dry conditions, making things worse as the violin is regularly taken out of too dry air into too wet air and back again.

May 8, 2019, 1:16 PM · I use one of these dehumidifiers:

May 9, 2019, 2:10 PM · "desiccant (like calcium chloride) inside the case if I can't afford a humidity-controlled studio?"

Calcium chloride will pull down the humidity to too low levels. Also, it liquifies as it absorbs moisture, forming a corrosive liquid. You probably don't want that in your case.

Consider silica gel. It's cheap, safe, and can be bought with an orange/green humidity indicator. You can regenerate it in an oven; with some trial and error you can probably regenerate it to 40% relative humidity and you repeat the procedure at 60%. (If you live in a dry climate, you moisten it to 60% in the bathroom and re-moisten when it drops below 40%).

May 9, 2019, 10:19 PM · Thanks so much for all the input!!!

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