How to Treat Mold in your Cigar Humidor
Preventing and treating cigar mold growth within your humidor is something that can be achieved by following these detailed steps.
Before we start, let's first get a basic understanding on what causes mold. Mold typically manifests itself on your cigars more often than within the interior of your humidor and generally appears when the relative humidity in your humidor exceeds 75%. Temperatures of 77 degrees or more will also increase the likelihood of mold growth.
The first step is to examine the mold and determine if the color is blue to blue-green or white. A bluish or green color is indicative of mold.
To begin treating the mold issue, remove all the cigars from your humidor. The cigars should then be sectioned off into 3 groups (heavily infected, salvageable and unaffected). The cigars that are heavily infected should be disregarded. If the amount of visible mold is minimal and you feel you can salvage certain cigars, separate them and place them into a sealed container for the time being (i.e. Tupperware container). The remaining unaffected cigars must also be placed into their own separate plastic container. The two containers should then be placed in a refrigerator. Refrigeration does not completely cease mold growth but does assist in slowing down the process making it easier to treat the cigars.
The next step is to ensure that your humidor is clean. Now that your box has been emptied of its cigars, loosen all visible mold with a brush and carefully vacuum out the interior. Once all discernable mold is removed, dampen a clean cloth with isopropyl alcohol and lightly wipe down the entire interior lining including the walls, bottom and under side of the lid. Do not submerge the interior as it can warp and ruin the lining. Use just enough alcohol to moisten the wood and kill off any potential mold spores that are not visible. It is recommended that the humidification devices in a contaminated humidor be replaced instead of cleaned as they may also be infected. Once the box has been thoroughly wiped down, vacuum it out again and put a new fully charged humidification device in place. Let the humidor acclimate for 5-7 days. If new mold spores become visible in the humidor interior during this time period, repeat the brush, vacuum and wipe down procedure again.
During the 5-7 days your humidor is sitting; periodically check the unaffected cigars in the refrigerator for new signs of mold growth. After 7-14 days, if there is no indication of any mold, the cigars are good to go. For your salvageable cigars that have been affected, just like the humidor, carefully wipe them down with a clean cloth dampened in isopropyl alcohol before they are stored in the refrigerator; the same way the unaffected cigars were handled. While gently wiping the cigars you will find that the mold may leave a slight discoloration on the cigar wrapper. This discoloration should not be of any concern and as long as the procedure is executed properly, the chances of regrowth are slim. In the instance mold spores reappear after the 5-7 days has passed, simply repeat the procedure again.
Once the cigars are completely free and clear of mold they can be safely returned to the humidor. One point to note is that mold is mostly a variation of bluish-green to blue in color. If you find a white colored powdery dust on your cigars, this may very well not be mold at all, and instead plume (which is perfectly acceptable and is explained in detail at the end of this page).
How to Prevent Mold from Returning to your Cigars
Mold generally manifests itself in a humidor where the humidity flow is obstructed. When a passive humidification device is crowded by cigars or humidor components such as drawers or removable trays, the moisturized air cannot adequately circulate throughout the humidor. As a result, a contained buildup of moisturized air will collect in a specific part of the humidor. This buildup is often situated very close to the humidification unit and results in extremely saturated wood and dripping wet humidifiers. This stagnant accumulation of moisture creates an environment conducive to mold formation. To contend with this issue, re-configure the arrangement of your cigars and relocate the humidifier so that the air can circulate more efficiently.
Mold can also show up from unintentionally touching your cigars with unsanitary hands. Microscopic traces of bacteria, moisture from the sweat of a fingertip or food residue is sometimes enough to cause mold to form. While none of us intentionally intend to contaminate our cigars by touch, this does tend to happen periodically. With that said, it is good practice to wash and dry your hands before handling cigars in your humidor.
As a precautionary measure to insure that mold does not return, the interior of the humidor must be thoroughly sterilized. The cedar or mahogany wood lining in most humidors is quite porous and even the most miniscule mold spore that is left behind embedded in the interior will eventually grow and spread into a recurring outbreak. To avoid this, be certain to give your humidor interior a complete wipe down with Isopropyl Alcohol to insure any residual mold is killed off. In addition, you can also lightly sand the interior lining with extra fine grit sandpaper. This will help get a little deeper down into the porous wood crevices to assist in removal of any stubborn or embedded bacteria. Finish off the treatment with performing a final wipe down of the humidor again, this time with distilled water only.
Is the mold in your cigar humidor WHITE in color?
If it is truly white then you do not have a mold problem. The white powdery dust that is sitting on your cigars is called "Plume". Plume is an indication that your cigars are in a well preserved environment and are being properly aged. Plume is derived from the crystallized oils of cigar wrapper leaves. It is completely harmless and is suggested to simply dust them off when you are ready to smoke one. In the instance of an exaggerated accumulation of plume on your cigars, you may want to dust them off from time to time in an effort to keep your cigars and humidor clean in appearance.