Updated: Aug 6, 2020
Ukulele are wonderfully simple instruments. In fact, that’s one reason why they’re more popular than ever. They are so simple in fact that many don’t know about moisture maintenance and how important it is. I’ve heard it many times before. Testimonies of people purchasing ukulele here in Hawaii, only to find their precious instruments cracked and splitting a month after getting home. Oh no! This is due to a lack of moisture maintenance, or maintaining the proper humidity around your ukulele.
As someone who plays the ukulele you should already know that your ukulele is made of wood.
“Wait... what? Ukulele are made out of wood?!?”
Okay, I know, so basic. I did start by saying the ukulele was a simple, right? Haha! But follow me on this, its gonna make sense when we get into the topic. So yes, ukulele are made of wood, so now lets go down the rabbit hole. This is gonna get weird!
Just because your tone-wood is cut, dried, shaped, sanded, glued, and made into a ukulele, it still thinks its a tree. Yes, your wood is ‘zombified’! The wood is technically dead, but it is still moving. Get it. Zombie-wood?
So just like a tree, the wood in your ukulele will continue to try to acclimate to it’s surroundings. And if your surrounding area isn’t suitable for your ukulele, then destruction is inevitable.
“Why will my ukulele fall apart?” Great question! It all comes down to humidity. For example, if the air around your ukulele is too dry, it will eventually dry out the wood causing it to shrink. When this happens, the wood in your ukulele will crack.
And this humidity issue goes both ways. If the surrounding area is too humid, the wood on your ukulele will absorb the moisture making it expand. The wood will start warping, taking on new angles and shapes. Either way, having too little or too much humidity can hurt your ukulele. These negative effects can take months but I have seen things happen in days!
“So What can I do to protect my ukulele from the humidity?”
Well, get a humidifier!
What the heck is a ukulele humidifier?
Ukulele humidifiers are small moisture-filled containers that fit inside your ukulele case or hung on the ukulele itself (while in it’s case). It works by gradually releasing moisture into the environment as needed. It does this without over-humidifying the environment. A consistent humidity level between 40 and 50 percent is ideal.
In Hawaii, the birthplace of ukulele, many builders construct their ukulele in humidity controlled rooms. They lower the humidity using dehumidifiers and air conditioners in order to maintain a room humidity of 50%, though Hawaii’s normal humidity vacillates between 55-80%. This helps decrease the chances of cracking when the ukulele is sent to places that are too dry.