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Humidifying in the Classroom

A small graph showing the happy fiddle zone falling between 40 and 60 percent
In Maryland, our homes' heating systems cause a drop in our in-home humidity levels and this has a direct effect on our instruments/bows. Many players in the area rely on instrument/in-case humidifiers to protect and balance humidity levels.

In our shop, we have a dedicated, whole-shop humidifier which is integrated with our heating system. This allows us to maintain a humidity level throughout the entire shop in the 45%-50% range and offer the best protection for all of the violins, violas, cellos, and bows in the building.

Humidity at Lashof Violins
Condensation Gathers on a Window
If you've ever been to our store on a particularly cold day, you will notice that the inside of our doors is covered in condensation. The cold temperatures outside plus the lovely 50% humidity inside create the perfect zone for our doors/windows to collect water.

While the higher humidity is lovely for the instruments and bows (and our cuticles), we realize this probably not something that the average classroom will be able to maintain. 

In fact, in addition to all of the wonderful things we gain from the sustained humidity in fall and winter months, we also have to keep an eye out for potential mildew growth around our windows and doors. We are aware this is definitely not something schools want to have to plan for and keep up with. 

The School Classroom Conundrum: Humidity Edition

So what do you do when you're working in a space with:
  • 25 foot ceilings
  • Doors that frequently open and close
  • A space where you don't have individual control over temperatures from one day (or hour) to the next
  • Dozens of Large-Bodied String Instruments
    • Not enough cases for above-mentioned Large-Bodied String Instruments
  • A Hundred or Two Students
  • A Potential Lack of Resources to Buy a Fancy, High-End, Commercial Humidifier?

Strive for Stability
Graph of Humidity Rising and Falling from 36.7% to 36.4%
We know instruments are happiest at 40%-60% humidity, but--after decades of communicating with real-live human teachers working (and getting creative) within the confines of public/private school rules, regulations, and budgets--we also know that keeping your space at 50% may be tricky, if not impossible. 

The best you may be able to do in your classroom is try to achieve a better-than-no-humidity level of humidity stability when the heat gets turned on in the building.

We've compiled a list of ideas or places to start your brain-storming session for what may work within the constrains of your specific classroom.

A Digital hygrometer reading 69.9 degrees and 45 percent
Knowledge is Power!
Start with a Hygrometer

A hygrometer will help you figure out when you are in the right zone for your space based on how often the heat runs, how large or drafty your room is, etc. We recommend striving for at least 35% humidity for your instruments/bows, but if you can swing 40%-50%, do it! 
There are a number of different hygrometer options out there to help track humidity, and, depending on your needs, they range in price from $5.00 and up.

In our shop, we use several, small Wifi-enabled Hygrometers that help us keep an eye on temperature and humidity levels at all hours of the day. If you are unable to connect a device like a hygrometer to your school's Wifi, there are also Bluetooth options which can connect to your phone/smartwatch/magic school bus when you're in the building and keep you updated on changes your room has seen while you are out of that space. 

Depending on your budget, look into what makes sense for you. Click here to see what we have to offer: Humidifiers and Hygrometers at Lashof Violins.

Try to Designate an Instrument Storage Closet or General Area
Where String Instruments Can Gather for Group Humidification

Use a Large Console or Room Humidifier
We speak from experience when testifying to the effectiveness of console humidifiers. After burning out the circuit boards of two different whole-shop humidifiers and figuring out the best commercial size humidifier able to keep up with the needs for our shop, we relied exclusively on large, thirteen gallon console humidifiers for our store. 

Unlike the type of humidifier you may use in your bedroom at home (like those commonly sold at pharmacies), console humidifiers can hold many gallons of water in their reservoirs at a time. 

Thirteen gallon console humidifiers like the ones we used are definitely pricier (starting around $175) than a Humitron, Stretto, or bedroom-sized humidifier, but their ability to provide enough, sustained humidity for entire days may end up saving your repair budget a LOT of money in the long run. 

If a console humidifier is out of range for now, you could try out a couple of smaller room humidifiers--just make sure to keep up with refilling those reservoirs and don't leave anything running that could potentially "burn" out over weekends and breaks.

A Cello bag surrounded with a red circle with a diagonal line through it

If you are Using a Console/Room Humidifier, Try Not to Store Instruments or Bows in Cases

    • If you have a safe way to store the instruments outside of their cases (like cello and bass stands or custom, open shelving), keep instruments and bows out of their cases.  
      • If you are running a console/room humidifier, cases will essentially stop the humidity from reaching the instruments and you will be doing a lot of work for little to no result. 
    • However, if you have a mixed storage space (ie. open cello stands and shelves for violin cases), you may need to implement use of a console/room humidifier for your larger instruments and in-case/instrument humidifiers for instruments stored in cases.

If You Lack a Logical Place/Closet to Gather the Instruments for Storage

An open violin case

Store the Instruments in their Cases
Store as many instruments in cases as you have available. The cases help slow the dissipation of humidity from the instrument/case.

A humitron instrument humidifier. A violin in its case with a Precipitube humidifer installed

Use Individual Humidifiers for Each Instrument/Case

  • Use an In-Case Humidifier
    • These are the best option for both the instrument and bow.
    • Humidifiers like The Precipitube or Stretto work well in cases and, when the case is closed when not in use, can last 7-10 days.
  • Use 1 or More Instrument Humidifier(s)
    • Humidifiers like the Humitron or Dampit work well, but this of humidifier requires daily re-humidification.
      • Keeping up with this schedule is important to achieve stability and prevent the humidity levels from yo-yoing up and down.
    • Of course certain instruments/environments may require more, but we generally recommend 1 instrument humidifier for each violin/viola and--at least--2 instrument humidifiers for each cello/bass.

Points to Consider When Seeking Funds/Support for Obtaining Funds for Humidifiers

From talking to teachers throughout the years, we know that the hardest part of humidifying instruments isn't the day-to-day work it takes to use humidifiers--it's often finding or gaining the support for obtaining the funds to actually get the humidifiers in your classroom. 

Knowing this, we thought a list of problems and repairs which arise as a result of low humidity might be beneficial to share when advocating for humidifiers for your instruments.

If you have a list of repair expenses from this year and/or previous years which show direct financial impact of low humidity in the classroom, it may be helpful to include that information along with this list.

Click Here for the List of Problems and Repairs that Arise as a Result of Low Humidity

We hope this information has been helpful! 

We know teaching is full of challenges and keeping up with humidity for your classroom's instruments is just another item on a long list of things teachers deal with on a regular basis. 

Please feel free to reach out to us with questions any time.

And just remember--a stabile humidity will be more beneficial than swinging from highs to lows!