Don’t you hate it when you open your humidor to grab your favorite cigar, and you’re hit by an overbearing, musty smell? Or, worse yet, how about when you notice those telltale “buckshot holes,” a sure sign of tobacco beetles all over your cigars? With the cost of cigars and tobacco taxes on the rise, using a humidor is like protecting your investment. But, before you use one, you need to know how to clean a humidor regularly.
As you know, a cigar humidor is a small wooden box with a cedar or mahogany wood lining. Humidors come with a hygrometer device to maintain the proper humidity level for the proper storage of cigars. Although they are expensive, a humidor with a Spanish cedar lining will keep tobacco beetles from invading your cigars.
But over time, bacteria and mold can build up within any humidor. That means you need to clean yours often to avoid having to throw out hundreds of dollars of quality cigars just because of mold or bugs. So read on to learn how to clean a humidor both inside and out.
Cleaning Your Humidor
Before you begin, wash your hands. Dirty hands will encourage mold and bacteria growth, which is the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. Empty the humidor, check each cigar and wipe the interior down. Replace the humidifier device if you find your current one isn’t working like it did when new. Clean the exterior and eliminate any odors, and then return the cigars to the humidor.
- Empty the Humidor and Check Each Cigar
- Wipe with Alcohol
- Replace the Humidifier
- Return Cigars to the Humidor
- Clean the Exterior
- Eliminate Any Smells
You Will Need
- A plastic container
- A vacuum or brush
- Soft, clean cloths
- Isopropyl alcohol (buy on Amazon)
- Distilled water (buy on Amazon)
- A shot glass
- Whiskey or cognac
Step 1: Empty the Humidor
It is important to empty out your humidor before you clean it. Check your cigars for mold or bloom, also known as plume, when you take them out of the humidor. Bloom happens when the oils in cigars slowly rise up, making cigars look dusty.
It’s okay to smoke cigars with bloom, and in fact, some people prefer it. Mold has a hairy appearance, while bloom looks more like crystals. Also, mold develops in white spots while bloom creates an overall flaky appearance.
Also, check your cigars for a tobacco beetle infestation. Unfortunately, they are in some of the cigars you buy. Even though cigar factories take steps to eliminate them, a few still survive. But, it’s only when the temperature and humidity rise that they become active. Here’s what to look for:
- Small “buckshot” holes in your cigars.
- A brownish powder when you tap the end of a cigar against a table or hard object.
- A dust trail on the bottom inside of your humidor.
How to Empty the Humidor
- Remove all the cigars and place them in a sealed plastic container.
- Put the container in the refrigerator to prevent any mold growth.
- Look for visible mold inside the humidor. It’s usually white or bluish-green in color.
- Remove any mold, dust or debris from the interior with a vacuum or soft, clean cloth.
Step 2: Wipe with Alcohol
Isopropyl alcohol will kill any mold spores and make it harder for it to grow back. You only need a small amount, but it’s best to use a strong solution of at least 80 to 90 percent alcohol to kill all the mold and mildew.
How to Wipe Down a Humidor with Alcohol
- Dampen a clean cloth with isopropyl alcohol and wipe down the entire interior of your humidor.
- Avoid using plain water for this process as it can ruin the humidor. Regular drinking water contains chemicals like chlorine, which can ruin the taste of cigars.
- Lightly moisten the interior wood surface with the alcohol. You don’t want to use too much alcohol or the inside of the humidor wood will become too wet.
Step 3: Replace the Humidifier
Once mold has contaminated your humidor, you may need to replace the humidifying unit. You don’t want to clean it out only to find out several weeks later that the unit no longer maintains the proper humidity level in the humidor.
Check your hygrometer once a week to make sure it is at 70 percent humidity and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If it can’t maintain the right humidity and temperature, you may need to either refill or replace it.
How to Replace the Humidifier
- Because they vary, be sure to follow the installation instructions for your particular humidifier.
- After installing a new humidity device, let it sit empty and closed for about a week.
- Check to see if any mold has reappeared.
- If not, you are ready to enjoy using your humidor once again.
Step 4: Clean the Exterior
Just use a soft cotton cloth you have dampened with distilled water to wipe away any dust and dirt on the outside of your humidor. Remember to avoid plain tap water, which will affect the taste and smell of your cigars.
Step 5: Remove Any Lingering Odors
Sometimes, even if a humidor is clean, it can still harbor strong smells. The odors can be from other, strong-smelling cigars or even the wood lining of the humidor. Luckily, there are lots of options to make your humidor smell better.
How to Remove Any Lasting Smells From Your Humidor
- Air it out for a few days by leaving it empty with the top open.
- Add a box of baking soda to the empty humidor. Shut the top and leave it for up to one week.
- Put a shot glass full of whiskey or cognac inside the empty humidor. Shut the top and leave it to sit inside for a few days.
- Once your humidor smells better, you can check and put your cigars back inside. Just toss out any with visible signs of mold. It’s not worth risking your health just to save some money.
Keeping Your Humidor Clean and Working Properly
As long as you don’t see any visible problems like bugs or mold, you should clean your humidor every two or three months. In fact, opening it too much will encourage mold growth.
The most effective way to keep your humidor clean and working well is to monitor the humidity and temperature levels every day. Keep them at 70 percent humidity and 70 degrees Fahrenheit so you won’t have to clean as often. Here are some helpful tips to maintain a clean humidor:
- Check it once a week for mold growth and insects (See Step 1).
- Prevent the growth of mold by storing your humidor in a cool, dry area.
- Keep your humidor away from direct heat or sunlight to avoid mold growth.
- For optimal air circulation, when you put cigars in your humidor, make sure they don’t block any of the vents.
Time to Start Cleaning
No one wants to toss out their favorite cigars, especially if they expensive or rare. But by checking and cleaning your humidor regularly, you can avoid any waste or health hazards. All it takes is a few materials and a little time to make sure your cigars smell and taste fantastic.