How to Re-Hydrate Stale Cigars: Part 2

In my previous blog, How to re-hydrate stale cigars, I spoke more to the issue of whether stale or dried-out cigars can be re-humidified. In this column, I will explain the actual “how-to” of proper re-hydration for both loose and boxed cigars.

Loose cigars

Re-hydrating cigars is a procedure that requires a lot of patience. The idea is to allow slow absorption of moisture. You don’t want to “shock” your dry cigars with too much moisture at once. They can actually swell and even split, which is the last thing you want to do, especially if some of them are expensivos.

  1. Place them in a humidor or a sealed container with a humidifier that isn’t fully charged. It helps to have a digital hygrometer / thermometer in there as well, so you can keep better tabs on the amount of RH your cigars are getting. Give them a few days to absorb what little moisture remains in the humidifier. Check the humidifier to see if it’s just about dried-out. If so, move on to the next step.
  2. Next, add only a little distilled water and/or recharging solution to the humidifier – no more than one-third absorption – and let the cigars settle-in again for about a week, maybe two, depending on how well they’re coming back. Once they begin to feel less like sticks, move on to step 3.
  3. Fully re-charge humidifier and let your cigars continue to rest until they are re-humidified to your satisfaction. Rotating them every few days will help keep things even during the process, too.

If you’re re-hydrating your cigars in a very large or cabinet-style humidor, you should start by placing the cigars as far away from the humidifier as possible. Move them a little closer to the device about every 5-7 days.

Remember, this process can take several weeks to well over a month, or even longer, so, be patient.

Boxed cigars

If you keep your cigars in their factory boxes and notice they’re beginning to dry out, one of the simplest methods is to place the entire box inside a plastic zip-type bag. Don’t completely seal the bag; leave it open about one-half-inch, because you want a little air to get in there. Plus, it will help trap any moisture still left in the cigars. Placing a clean piece of sponge dampened with distilled water or 50/50 solution in the bag will help. Or, in lieu of a piece of sponge, you can add a Boveda 69% humidity pack. As noted above, the idea here again is slow absorption of moisture.

Rotate the cigars every few days from the bottom to the top of the box. Keep this up until you’re satisfied with their suppleness. After that, you can place the Boveda pack inside the box, and it probably wouldn’t hurt to pick up a box of Boveda packs to prevent this from happening again, or in the first place.

Remember, as I pointed-out in my prior column, when cigars lose too much moisture they also lose a lot of their bouquet, so, unless you nip it in the bud, don’t expect them to be as flavorful. Finally, regardless of their condition, never resort to drastic measures to revive your cigars or you’ll ruin them permanently.

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Comments

  1. George Himel says:

    I have 2 Macanudo Vintage 1997 cigars in sealed glass tubes. They were given to me with info they are about 2 years old. do they need to be re-hydrated? If so taken out of tube? Or are they still good? Any info is appreciated. Thanks.

  2. Gary Korb says:

    Hi George – If the cigars have been in a humidor this whole time, they may be fine. If they’ve been stored in a drawer somewhere, they are very likely to be dried-out. All I can suggest is that you open one of them and if it’s hard and crispy, it probably cannot be brought back to life, and you can expect the same from the second cigar. Even if you could bring them back, they will have lost much of their flavor. Let me know how you make out by leaving a follow-up comment, or writing to me at askgary@famous-smoke.com. (I’ve got my fingers crossed for you.)

  3. Alex Fried says:

    Hi Gary, I’ve or about 20 cigars I want to try and rehydrate, not of great value but I would rather try than throw, so I will try your method. However I have just been given two nice cigars that are still fresh. Do I avoid putting them in there whilst I’m doing the other might ‘ suck ‘ the moisture out. If I’m not putting them in how do I store them for a few weeks?

  4. Gary Korb says:

    Hi Alex,
    Since cigars are hygroscopic, you could put the 2 freshies in there if you like, but since it’s going to take a long time to rehydrate those other 20 cigars, you may want to keep them in a zip-lock bag and store them in a cool, dark space. If they’re still in their cellos, they should keep that way for at least a couple of weeks. Depends how fresh they are, too. If they’re still pretty soft, you shouldn’t have much of a problem.
    Good luck,
    G~

  5. Luther Wooley says:

    Can you you freeze cigars? I have some I bought that were dry. I put them in my humidor with a damp cloth and the sponge that came with the humidor. It seemed to help some. Anything I can do without the 50/50 solution, with just distilled water?

  6. Gary Korb says:

    Hi Luther. Yes, you can freeze cigars, but if they’re already a little dry, when you defrost them, they will be about the same. The damp cloth and sponge idea is closer to a solution. You can use distilled water, but 50/50 is better due to its mold-resistant properties. That said, the best way to re-humidify cigars is via the SLOW method. Place the cigars in a well-seasoned humidor with a freshly charged humidifier. Keep the cigars AWAY from the humidifier. Each week, move them a little closer to it. Depending on how dry they are, it could take weeks or even months, so be patient. Re-humidification must be done slowly. You don’t want to “shock” the cigars by hitting them with too much moisture from the start.

  7. Mike says:

    I have a 100 count humidor. After seasoning I got the RH to 84% let it sit for 24hrs then it was at 71% so I put my cigars in. I have about 20 sticks in there. After a few weeks I realized the humidity is reading 75% but the cigars are drying and getting crispy what should I do? Thanks.

  8. Gary Korb says:

    Hi Mike,
    If that’s the case, then you either:
    1) have a leaky humidor
    2) did not season the box long enough
    3) the hygrometer was not properly calibrated
    You can pick up a Boveda Calibration Kit for the unit. It works great, too. Or you can do the salt test (http://www.cigaradvisor.com/general/cigars-101/how-do-you-calibrate-a-hygrometer), which is also effective. I’d bet it’s the hygrometer.

    Good luck,
    G~

  9. James says:

    Hey all! I have about 25 cigars in a 40-50 cigar sized humidor. I have seasoned it twice with the distilled water wipe down and i have a small, circular [humidifier] that is plastic, and I also have something the local store sold me with beads in it, says to fill with distilled water. I have had the cigars for a little while, some since Dec of 2011, but gathered some here and there. Now, these were in an unseasoned humidor, so I am not sure if they are still OK, but when I got the humidor seasoned to about 70%, and put in all the cigars, it went down to about 40%, and comes up, but I haven’t seen it over 50 or 55 even, IIRC. Any thoughts, or should I just trash the cigars and start over? I don’t mind, because most were gifts, and no labels so who knows what they are, but I have a couple I really want to keep and re-hydrate if possible. Any help is appreciated it, thanks…oh yeah this has been going on for about a month. I re-seasoned it about 2 weeks ago, maybe 10 days.

  10. Jerry Bonham says:

    My cigars are still in the factory box and inside cellophane wrappers. I assume the wrappers should be removed to permit re-hydration. Is this correct or should I leave them as is?

  11. Gary Korb says:

    Hi Jerry. Not necessarily. The cellophane might help bring them back a little easier, since there’s an added “wall” of protection keeping them from re-hydrating too quickly. You could also do a test. Remove a couple of wrappers and see if those come back faster and/or better than the cigars still in their cellos. -G.K.

  12. Gary Korb says:

    As for you James, I would check the calibration on your hygrometer, then make sure your humidifier is also the right size for the humidor. Save the cigars that still feel supple and keep them in a zip-lock bag until you get the humidor’s RH in the right place. Also, if your cigars still have some “give” to them, they may not be as dry as you think. If some are really that dry, you may just have to toss those.