Heat, moisture, and organic material are a surefire recipe for the growth of mold. Unfortunately, these conditions also describe a cigar humidor that is properly maintained. Indeed, to care for cigars is to walk a razor’s edge: too much heat and humidity, and you risk developing mold and tobacco beetles. Not enough moisture, and you risk your cigars drying out and becoming stale.
In this article, we’ll focus on restoring your humidor to its former glory after developing mold.
The first thing to know is that mold spores are literally everywhere, so it’s not worthwhile to think of them as the enemy. Only under the right conditions – plenty of heat, humidity, and organic material – do they develop into the visible colonies that can plague cigars and humidors. The recommended threshold for heat and humidity is 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 72% humidity, but cigars can be stored long-term at a Rh of 60% or even 55%. Once these conditions are exceeded, that’s when the spores begin to manifest as the colorful splotches that cause off-flavors and aromas in a cigar.
Mold grows relatively slowly, so if you check your humidor on a regular basis, you’re likely to first notice a musty smell. Whether you’re in those early stages or you have a full-blown mold outbreak on your hands, the sooner you mitigate the problem, the better.
Begin by emptying your humidor. Brush any mold off your cigars, and place them in a cool, dry environment while you clean your humidor. Next, take the humidor outside and carefully brush any growing mold from the humidor, so as not to cause staining on the interior wood surfaces.
Once complete, it’s time to kill the spores. Using a light solution of distilled water and isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, wipe down all of the humidor’s interior surfaces, and leave it open while it dries. This will kill any visible mold, but remember that most of the mold is not actually visible.
Another proven tactic is to lightly sand the interior surfaces with a fine grit sandpaper. Just make sure to wipe down after sanding to clean up any dust.
Your humidor may require several such treatments to completely remove all existing mold, and even then, there may still be a funky, musty smell. Place a paper plate of baking soda into the humidor to absorb these smells, changing as necessary.
Even then, some smells may linger. These will dissipate over time, especially if you commit to maintaining proper humidity and temperature, and keep it filled with plenty of cigars.
It’s time to re-season your now-dry humidor by wiping down the walls with a new sponge and distilled water.