A guitar player may wonder why and if they should hydrate their guitar, and if so, how long does it take to rehydrate a guitar. In case a person owns a guitar, they need to understand how different kinds of humidity levels affect their instrument so they could rehydrate it for proper amounts of time. This is especially important if the guitar in question is an expensive, high-end acoustic one. It is crucial to know how to upkeep a guitar and recognize early signs of humidity-induced damage to prevent further harm.

The duration of the whole rehydration process varies due to the amount of damage and type of guitar. Sometimes a guitar can be fixed in a day or two, but in some extreme cases of damage it can take up to several weeks to heal the split wood.

Some instruments may not be in high-risk surroundings, but it is advisable to rehydrate them to prevent any potential cracks in the future.

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Why and How Do People Rehydrate Guitars?

Acoustic guitars are made of wood, which reacts to different levels of air humidity and temperature. One may think this only occurs when one moves their guitar from a hot car to a cold room, but in reality, it also happens in the seemingly unhazardous confines of a person’s house, as the climate adjusts with the seasons. As those levels rise and fall, the guitar’s neck and body can alter in size.

Solidbody electric guitars are usually less sensitive to weather conditions. However, this doesn’t mean electric guitar owners should care less about the condition their guitar is in, as electric guitars are prone to different kinds of damage caused by the environment they’re in, too.

People rehydrate their guitars to prevent damage, as once the damage has already been done the process of repairment of the instrument can be long, exhausting, and in some cases expensive, too. Rehydrating is done to correctly protect the guitar from humidity and changes in temperature. It is key to monitor those things to properly take care of an instrument.

How Much Exposure of a Guitar to Humidity Is Acceptable?

Most guitars need to be handled with gentle care and ought not to be exposed to environments not suited for them. Short exposure, meaning a day or two, to extreme dryness or extreme humidity is generally not enough to induce any damage to the guitar.

Guitars should be played and not sit in their cases. The only exceptions are rare, old, or expensive collector’s pieces. These should probably spend the majority of their lives protected and only occasionally be taken out for routine maintenance or to refret them even if they are a vintage model.

If the guitar was exposed to an extreme environment, it will show the first signs and symptoms of a “dry” or “wet” guitar after a week. Recognizing the symptoms of a dry guitar is essential for keeping it in usable shape.

Even though the environment their guitar is in is a question of worry for some, many guitar owners report no visible damage to their instrument after many years of exposure to external factors. This is because temperature and humidity vary from place to place, and additional rearrangements of these components are not necessary in some specific cases.

However, even though one may not currently see anything unusual on their guitar, it’s best to look out for any early signs of dryness, before it’s too late to reverse the effects of mistreatments and lack of proper care.

How Does the Dryness of a Guitar Manifest?

To assess if the guitar is dry, one should first try to get some kind of hygrometer so they can accurately see what the humidity level is. Afterward, they ought to take corrective steps from there if needed. Humidity levels ranging from 40% to 60% are acceptable.

A dry guitar is a guitar that has been exposed to humidity below 40% for a few days or more and has begun to dry out. Here are some of the symptoms that might appear:

  • Low action
  • The hump on the fretboard where the neck joins the body.
  • There’s a slight gap around the fretboard extension.
  • The back of a guitar looks very flat.
  • Sharp fret ends extend beyond the edge of the fretboard.
  • The guitar develops a brittle or “tinny” sound.

It is advisable to start rehydrating the guitar as soon as the first signs of dryness are noticed. If you are too late, your guitar will get damaged beyond repair – the finish will crack, glue joints will fail, and splits will form in different parts of your guitar.

Rehydrated guitar

What Can Be Done to Rehydrate a Guitar?

A dehydrated guitar is not an unsavable one. There are many ways in which different kinds of humidity-caused problems can be solved. Usually, the solution is simply using one of the devices made for controlling humidity.

Trying to regulate the humidity of a room in which a guitar is stored is very difficult, even though affordable, consumer-grade room humidifiers do a decent job of keeping a room regulated. But, this isn’t the perfect solution.

In case the guitar owner is away for more than about 24 hours, which is very likely to happen, the water runs out and the guitars are left vulnerable until one’s able to fill it again. Investing in different kinds of humidifiers is a good idea, as it efficiently does the job of rehydrating a guitar.

There are several types of humidifiers:

  • Guitar case humidifiers
  • Room humidifiers
  • Soundhole humidifiers 

Putting a hygrometer in the room where the guitar is kept and maintaining the entire space at around 52%RH is another sure way to prevent dryness. This is a much better solution than storing the guitar in a case, as one’s much more likely to maintain a certain room’s humidity levels up to their desired standard than maintain the small area of their case strictly. Every time the case is opened and exposed to the surrounding air, the accuracy of the humidity level reading is compromised.

In case a person wants to accurately know the constant humidity of the space, it is much easier to just keep their guitars in a moderately sized room and control the humidity and temperature. To do that, one just needs to get a small, cheap humidifier and use a hygrometer to control the room RH.

To keep the space suitable for storing guitars, one ought to humidify in the winter and dehumidify in the summer.  Much of either might not have to be done depending upon what the hygrometer readings tell. The entire space, if done as above, is stable and can be used to store any wooden instrument or sensitive object.

Besides using a humidifier, there are other quick solutions to the problem of having a dried-up guitar. An at-home way of fixing guitar dryness is loosening the strings and laying the guitar flat on its back. Make sure to place a plastic bag and spread it on the inside of your guitar. Then, take a washcloth and get the guitar mildly wet.

The washcloth should be microwaved for about twenty-five to thirty seconds and put in the soundhole of the guitar laying on top of the plastic bag afterward, with another plastic bag covering the soundhole, beneath the strings. The washcloth should be reheated every couple of hours.

Using this method a few times a day is a sure way to give a guitar the hydration it needs. Usually, in a few days, the body will resume the original dimensions. In extreme cases, it may take more than a week for it to get back to a playable condition.

So, How Long Does It Take To Rehydrate a Guitar?

In conclusion, different methods take different amounts of time.

Whatever method of rehydrating their guitar one may choose to use is a substantial way to keep the guitar as safe as possible. Even though not every guitar owner needs to worry about things such as humidity and temperature,  and constantly check out for changes in those factors, especially if they live in a stable climate, it is perhaps best to make sure there are no early symptoms of guitar damage to prevent further deterioration of the guitar, as the process of repairing it may be long and complicated.