Can Cigars Get Moldy?
Most mold is highly aerobic fungi, which lives in most oxygen-rich environments. Mold thrives in high humidity and heat, which allows it to reproduce through minuscule spores that travel through the air.
Furthermore, most mold feeds off sugars and it will quickly grow or spread when in an environment that provides a combination of these factors.
A cigar humidor is a paradise for mold as it offers a nutrient-rich environment with the perfect heat and moisture conditions for it to grow.
Indeed, mold is particularly partial to relative humidity above 70%, which is the usual recommended level for storing cigars. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that mold is an issue for many cigar smokers.
Cigar Mold Or Bloom?
Some cigar enthusiasts may talk about plume or bloom as opposed to mould when referring to growth on a cigar. Occasionally, they may claim that white powder on cigars isn’t mold at all but is instead crystallised sugars and oils that have risen to the cigar’s surface.
Unfortunately, the idea of plume or bloom is a myth, wishful thinking, or a complete fabrication spread by unscrupulous cigar retailers who wish to flog moldy cigars! Indeed, plume, bloom, or whatever you want to call it, is almost always mold.
Although this myth is dwindling in popularity, it is surprisingly common despite all the evidence to the contrary. There’s no need to tell the difference between mold and cigars as they’re simply the same thing.
If you want to learn more about either bloom plume, we cover this in detail in a separate guide.
What Does Cigar Mold Look Like?
As there are many different varieties of mold, it can appear differently on your cigars. In most cases, it resembles a light powder on the cigar wrapper. Alternatively, the mold may seem furry instead.
Furthermore, it may be one of several different colours, including black, white, orange, and green. Similarly, mold may grow in patchy spots, dots, or as an even coating.
If you ever see anything strange on a cigar that doesn’t seem to be part of the wrapper, it’s likely that it’s mold.
Occasionally, you may see a green spot but if it appears to be part of the tobacco itself, it’s likely just a spot of chlorophyll. While this won’t affect the smoking experience, it usually suggests that the leaf wasn’t properly fermented.
In fact, candela cigar wrappers are prided for their distinctive green colour!
Is Cigar Mold Dangerous?
Although the idea of mold on your cigars sounds particularly daunting, it’s important to remember that we’re exposed to small quantities of it on a daily basis.
Mold can be found everywhere and we inhale or digest it on a daily basis. Our immune systems have developed to easily isolate and kill pathogens. However, there is a tipping point and if we take in too much, we can fall ill or develop an infection.
If you see mold on your cigars, it’s usually more of an annoyance rather than something that should be a cause for concern.
In most cases, you can simply wipe or brush the mold off your cigar wrapper, which will then be perfectly fine to smoke. Yet, it may leave a stain behind when you wipe it away.
Nevertheless, it is believed that if any mold appears in the filler on the cigar’s foot, it can be a little risky. Indeed, the mold may have grown inside the cigar.
If this is the case, you may have to throw the cigar away. Otherwise, if you don’t want to waste the cigar, consider snipping it off with a cutter. If no more mold is present inside, it should be safe to smoke.
Meanwhile, if you find a box full of moldy cigars, it’s best to avoid them completely. Similarly, a humidor with a musty odour is usually a good sign of mold.
Ideally, mold is best avoided as it can spread and even damage cigars. Nevertheless, a small amount on a single cigar doesn’t mean that you have to throw out your entire collection!
How To Prevent Cigar Mold
As we mentioned above, a little bit of mold on your cigars is indeed frustrating but rarely catastrophic. However, it’s usually a warning sign of a larger problem and you should take action if you find it in your humidor.
After all, mold can quickly spread and put your entire collection at risk and possibly ruin it. Fortunately, there are a number of steps that you can take to avoid you from getting moldy cigars.
Calibrate Your Humidor
First, you must make sure that you can properly monitor a collection in your humidor. Humidity issues in a humidor are often caused by an uncalibrated hygrometer. Like a musical instrument or an engine, hygrometers require regular tuning.
If your hygrometer is uncalibrated, you might end up acting on incorrect readings. For instance, you might try to over-humidify your humidor if it’s giving you a low relative humidity percentage when it might be perfectly fine.
Calibrating a hygrometer is easy and it requires very little effort. You can learn how to do it with our full hygrometer calibration guide. We also recommend using a digital hygrometer as analogue models tend to be unreliable.
Search For Mold
While regularly checking your hygrometer is a good first step, it’s often worth visually inspecting your collection every now and then as well.
Feel free to open your humidor every now and then and search for any sign of mold. If you stumble upon any spots on your cigars that look a little dubious, consider isolating them from the rest of your collection to avoid that it spreads.
However, if you follow our other steps, you should be safe.
Keep Humidity Below 70% RH
Needless to say, the most important step to prevent mold is to make absolutely sure that your cigars are stored below 70% RH. Anything above this amount is a recipe for white spots to grow on your cigars!
In our experience, we’ve had issues with most types of humidifiers in the past. For instance, we occasionally had mold when using gels and silicone beads.
It wasn’t until we switched to Boveda that these problems effectively stopped altogether. As Boveda offers two-way humidity thanks to its reserve-osmosis membrane, it absorbs excess moisture. This feature means that you can’t over-humifidy with Boveda packs.
Similarly, Boveda packs spread the moisture evenly across a humidor, which prevents pockets of moisture. They also only diffuse pure water so there’s no risk of spreading any impurities.
Furthermore, you don’t need to keep your cigars precisely at 70% and it’s sometimes worth storing them a little lower, which leaves you with a buffer if it begins to rise. For instance, we use a combination of 69% RH and 65% RH in different humidors.
Otherwise, if you don’t wish to use Boveda and prefer to stick with gels, recharge only with pure, distilled water or a propylene glycol solution.
Also, you’ll need to rotate your cigars regularly so they’re not always exposed to the moisture on only one side.
Avoid High Temperatures
Heat is humidity’s partner in crime when it comes to mold. Therefore, try to make sure that your cigars are stored somewhere cool.
If you live in a particularly hot area, consider investing in a cigar cooler that will refrigerate your cigars for you. Alternatively, an air-conditioned room will help alleviate a hot humidor.
Similarly, cigars stored under natural light may encourage mold to spread. Since direct sunlight will also heat up your humidor, try to keep it somewhere relatively dark or away from a window.
Sometimes Mold Beyond Your Control
Mombacho Quality Control
Finally, manufacturers also have a responsibility to ensure that cigars are made in hygienic conditions. In most cases, dirty hands manipulating tobacco is the leading cause of mold.
At first, the spores are microscopic and invisible. However, give it time, the mold will grow and spread on the surface of everything that it can!
Fortunately, some brands take impressive precautions. For instance, Claudio Sgroi of Mombacho Cigars has developed his own organic banana vinegar to disinfect the cigars when they’re packed for retail.
His recipe ensures that the vinegar is just strong enough to clean the cigar without tainting its flavour. Given that cigar production is a largely agricultural process with many hands involved, this innovative step might be worth introducing as an industry standard.
Now that you have read all about cigar mold, check out more of our cigar storage resources: