Cigars 101

How to Keep Your Cigars Safe from Humidor Mold

How to Keep Your Cigars Safe from Humidor Mold

Tips for Removing Mold from your Humidor

Few things can ruin a fresh supply of cigars quite like mold. It’s probably something you’ve encountered at least once, even if you haven’t been a cigar enthusiast for very long. So how do you recognize mold, what do you do when you find it and what can be done to avoid this problem?

Is It Mold or Plume?

You should first make sure that the substance is actually mold before you start throwing away cigars or trashing your humidor. A well-aged cigar may be covered with a fine crystalline structure that resembles mold to the untrained eye. However, upon closer observation, you should be able to easily discern whether the substance is mold or plume.

Plume is what happens when the oils trapped in the cigar come to the surface of the wrapper leaf and then crystallize. If your cigar is in cellophane, then the plume may look like a haze on the wrapper. Plume tends to cover the entire cigar, and is always white or gray.

Mold, on the other hand, may not cover the entire cigar. It usually appears in small splotches. If the problem has existed for a while without your checking, then it is possible that the mold has spread to cover most of the cigar.

Unlike plume, mold may come in a variety of different colors such as red, green, black, or yellow. It also thicker than plume and has a bumpy texture. Remember, plume is more like a dust that is easily blown or wiped away. Mold is a living organism that grows in small areas and slowly spreads. If you still are not sure, then give the cigar a whiff. Mold tends to have a very noticeable odor.

One final check is to inspect the foot of the cigar. Plume does not form on the foot. If there is mold in the foot, then the cigar has a serious mold infection and cannot be saved.

Should You Smoke It?

There are hundreds of different types of mold. Some pose no harm to humans and others are seriously toxic. Unless you are a mold expert, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference yourself. Since smoking a cigar with mold on it is like playing Russian roulette, your best bet is to just toss the cigars and then, clean the humidor.

Smoking cigars with mold on them will almost always result in the inhalation of mold spores, which is not something you want to do. Consider this: when a house is infected with mold, the mold removal experts wear safety gear, masks and protective clothes. They protect themselves because they understand the potentially dangerous effects of inhaling mold spores. Mold spores that are inhaled are more toxic than mold spores that have been ingested or absorbed by the skin. The actual side effects of the inhaled mold will depend on the type of mold, the sensitivity of the person, and where the spores are deposited within the body after leaving the respiratory system.

cigar mold removing mold from a humidor
Symptoms can include nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. Those with a more serious mold allergy (or who are immunocompromised) may have more severe reactions, and are at an elevated risk for both respiratory infections and bronchitis.

What to Do Next?

If you have a humidor suffering from a mold problem, the first thing you want to do is get rid of the infected cigars. As a matter of fact, getting rid of all the cigars in the humidor may not be a bad idea. The spores can easily spread from one cigar to the next and may be surviving on a cigar without being noticed.

If you feel confident that some of the cigars have not been infected, you may attempt to clean them with a dry cloth and a few drops of alcohol. Then, store the cigars in an airtight container inside the freezer or refrigerator for about a week. If mold begins growing on these cigars too, throw them in the trash.

cigar mold removing mold from a humidor smoking a cigar with mold
And if the mold has made its way to the filler tobacco at the foot, that stick for sure is a goner; there’s no way to clean that. Our condolences for your loss.

No matter what you do with the cigars, you have to remember to clean the humidor properly. Using a dry cloth that has been dipped in isopropyl alcohol, wipe down the interior walls of the humidor. While this will kill any mold left behind on the wood, it may also leave a stain – which is another sure way to know it was mold, and not plume. Sit the humidor on a table and let it air out and dry naturally for about a day. After this, start the seasoning and humidifying process again, and wait until it has reached the ideal humidity before inserting more cigars.

Can You Keep Cigars Safe from Mold?

Ideally, you want to avoid the mold problem altogether so you never need to throw away your precious cigars. Mold usually forms in humidors where the humidity reaches levels above 70 percent. If your humidor is at 80 percent, then it is almost a guarantee that mold is (or will be) growing inside. Keeping it below 70 percent is not a guarantee, but it does help lower the risk.

You should also inspect and rotate the cigars on a regular basis. Rotating helps reduce the humidor mold risk because cigars in certain positions are more likely to retain moisture.

remove humidor mold tip
Doc Diaz was kind enough to lend us some wisdom on humidor mold many moons ago. He recommends checking both your humidor and humidifier for signs of mold: “If you have developed mold on the wood of your humidor, remove all your cigars and use isopropyl or denatured alcohol to kill mold spores. And let it air out a bit before putting cigars back into it. If there is mold in your foam humidifier, either replace it, or remove it and flush it with water and leave it out to dry. When it’s dry, recharge it with a mixture of propylene glycol (PG) and distilled water. The PG will help impede mold growth.” And never, ever use tap water.

Unfortunately, humidor mold is an almost inevitable threat at some point or another; that, however, is no reason not to do everything you can to reduce the risk of mold forming. Controlling your humidity and rotating your cigars regularly will go a long way towards keeping your supply safe, fresh and always ready.