What is a Cigar Humidor & How Does a Humidor Work?

Picture of humidor with cigars and built in hygrometer

A humidor is often the first thing a new cigar aficionado buys. The purchase signals a shift from “casual enjoyer”—the type to buy a cigar at the last minute for a wedding or business event—to a connoisseur who collects, savors and routinely enjoys cigars.

However, a novice cigar smoker often buys a humidor out of obligation. A friend or tobacconist tells you that this must-have keeps cigars fresh, but you aren’t entirely confident of the workings or the science behind the humidor. And that’s where Boveda steps in. 

As a trusted leader in the cigar industry, Boveda perfected how to keep cigars fresh in a humidor. But before we get into how easy it is to use Boveda to preserve cigars, let’s learn about this fundamental piece of cigar equipment—the cigar humidor. 

Below, we’ll explore the fundamentals of cigar storage, such as What is a humidor?; How does a humidor work?; and How to tell if I’m buying a quality humidor?.

What Is a Cigar Humidor?

Let’s begin with the basics by breaking down the word “humidor”. The first part, “humid-” refers to what you strive to create inside—the ideal humidity to keep cigars fresh. And that second part—or” or “-idor” —is a loaned suffix (from Portuguese) meaning “place.” Put it together, and you have something like this: a place to keep your cigars at the right humidity. Pretty simple, right?

So what is a cigar humidor, exactly? It’s any container or space (a box, a bag, a Tupperware®, a room, etc.) whose humidity is controlled to maintain a desirable moisture level for cigars. Traditionally, you’d find a wood humidor (with Spanish cedar being the most sought-after material), but modern humidors may use metal, carbon fiber, plastics or even leather.

Remember, it’s just a cigar container. Alone a humidor doesn’t preserve cigars. You need to add Boveda packs to a humidor to maintain the ideal humidity that keeps cigars fresh.

Just add Boveda 69% RH to turn any airtight container into a humidor!

Wqxing Moon Humidor's Tupperdor Custom Boveda Holder

Waxing Moon Humidors offers custom cut cedar Boveda holders to fit Rubbermaid “Brilliance” containers, which are popular tupperdors. Wondering what Boveda to use in a tupperdor? Read more here.

Types of Humidors

As mentioned, humidors come in all shapes, sizes and materials. The most common humidor—the one you’re likely to encounter as a novice cigar appreciator—is the desktop humidor. This is often a wooden box with a single chamber, roughly the size of a shoe box. Properly seasoned with Boveda’s specially formulated seasoning packs, a wood desktop humidor definitely does the trick. 

Serious collectors and connoisseurs may opt for large humidors or wineadors with several trays to divide cigars within the same humidor. On the basic end here, you have multi-tiered or bisected desktop humidors like this sleek Ucana 60-Cigar Humidor. And on the even splashier end, you find walk-in humidor rooms, ornate cabinet humidors that double as fine pieces of furniture and handmade, solidly built wood humidors.

The wandering cigar lover might also pick up a travel cigar humidor: either a compact, airtight attaché case or one of Boveda’s heavy-duty, yet budget-friendly humidor bags. And then there’s the rest of the pack—pocket humidors, car humidors, tubes, leather kits, etc. 

So, what is a cigar humidor? To summarize: if it has a tight seal and is accompanied by a Boveda humidity pack, you can call it a humidor!

Before adding cigars, season a wood humidor with a Boveda Starter Kit

This Ucana Cigar Humidor arrives with a Boveda Starter Kit. If yours didn’t, order your starter kit here.

How Does a Cigar Humidor Work?

Definitions and types are helpful but don’t tackle the central question: how do humidors work? What’s the science behind them? What happens in those enclosed spaces that’s so special? 

As mentioned, to effectively store cigars, a humidor needs: a tight seal, which prevents air and moisture from escaping, and two-way humidity control, which adds as well as absorbs moisture. When a humidor satisfies those two criteria, it can maintain an optimal RH (relative humidity) between 60% and 72%. Within this ideal RH, a cigar retains its intended density, taste and burn. Conversely, if the cigar dries out below 60%, you’re left with a quick-burning, dull-tasting cigar prone to cracks and peeling. 

Managing RH in a humidor isn’t as simple as it sounds, though. Seasonality and geography play significant roles. For example, a cigar lover in the sweltering jungles of Indonesia might be working with an ambient humidity level far exceeding 72%. And a cigar lover on a desert vacation to Palm Springs is working with an RH of around 31%. At Boveda’s home base in Minnesota, seasonal humidity fluctuations are also hard on cigars. (Dry winters, humid summers.) That’s why the simple “sponge method” of popping a soaked sponge in your humidor is inexact at best, and damaging at worst. 

Boveda’s precise, two-way humidity control packets are the leading choice among cigar lovers for a reason. Slipped in a humidor, Boveda will release moisture to reach the intended RH (69%, 72%,  etc.) and maintain the optimal environment for a cigar or revive a dry cigar. And they can also kick the other way, absorbing moisture from the air inside the humidor if the RH is too high. They do the hard work of dialing in on cigar humidification so you’re left with a peak-performing humidor—and a tasty cigar—every single time. 

If you’ve come to this article with a dry, sad-looking cigar in your hand, don’t worry; check out our resource on how to humidify a cigar and bring it back to life. 

For large humidors & wineadors, keep cigars fresh with Size 320 Boveda

Cigars and Boveda packs in wineador cigar cooler

Your Other Cigar Humidor FAQs, Answered

Hopefully, this article answers your burning questions about cigar humidors. Still, you might have outstanding questions. Especially if you’re new to cigars, the world of humidors can be intimidating and complex. 

To cap things off, here are a few humidor FAQs with quick answers and/or resources for further reading: 

  • WHERE DO YOU BUY A HUMIDOR? Shop local if you like to see and touch what you’re buying. Use this cigar store finder to locate a reputable smoke shop near you. If you’re curious about how to buy a humidor online, check out this Cigar World article.
  • HOW MUCH DOES A HUMIDOR COST? It varies—greatly. Our on-the-go humidor bags cost as little as $8, so they make great entry-level humidors. A basic desktop humidor runs around $50 or an upgraded desktop humidor, like the Treasure Dome, can be as much as $280. And the sky’s the limit with cabinet humidors (you can keep adding zeros to your heart’s content). 
  • HOW TO TELL IF YOU’RE BUYING A QUALITY WOOD HUMIDOR. Be a smart shopper. Construction is the most important thing to look for to avoid buying a cheaply made humidor. Look for where humidor makers cut corners—from the bottom to the lid to the thin walls in between. See what makes a good humidor.
  • HOW DO YOU USE A HUMIDOR? Thankfully, cigar lovers learning how to use a cigar humidor won’t face an uphill battle. It’s pretty simple. If you have a new wood humidor, pick up a humidor starter kit. It comes with packs that season your humidor and control humidity for months. If you’re using a plastic container or acrylic humidor,  you don’t need to season it, just use 69% RH Boveda packs inside. For a more in-depth answer, check out our resource on how to use a cigar humidifier/dehumidifier. 
  • WHAT’S THIS HUMIDOR SEASONING BUSINESS? Seasoning refers to the process of bolstering the wood’s moisture level so that it a) doesn’t rob your cigars of moisture, and b) creates a better seal. Boveda sells humidor seasoning packets (84% RH) to make the process hassle-free. We also include seasoning packs in Boveda Humidor Starter Kits.

Whether you’re new to cigars or simply haven’t taken the humidor plunge yet, we hope this article demystifies them. Life’s too short to suffer through dry cigars. But with a quality container and Boveda—the global leader of two-way humidity control for humidors—that will never be an issue.