Care and Feeding
How should I take care of my ukulele?
Avoid Extreme Environmental Conditions
Damage can result from exposure to extreme temperatures, humidity, dry climates, or salt air climates. Failure to use a humidifier on an all solid-wood ukulele will void your warranty if any cracking occurs. Warranty claims may not be considered if a quality humidifier (Oasis™, Planet Waves™, Humistat™) is not used with your instrument while it is stored in its case or bag. When the instrument is not in its case or bag for more than two days we recommend it be stored in a room with a relative humidity of 40-60%.
Exposure to heating or cooling sources will also cause damage to the instrument. More on that below.
Easy Humidity Control.
Use a room humidifier in your music room/place where you play. Keep that environment at a relative humidity above 40% throughout the winter months. Use a hygrometer to judge.
In dry seasons (i.e. heating seasons) place a FILLED humidifier in the case with the ukulele between playing sessions. Fill the humidifier regularly, every day or two in the heart of the winter.
Avoid extreme heat.
Do not leave the instrument in a parked vehicle with the sun baking down on it during the summer. Find it some shade when you bring it camping. Do not store the ukulele beside a heating source such as a heat vent, radiator or a wood stove.
The adhesives used in constructing the instrument can soften up and allow your instrument to shift itself into new and disturbing shapes. This one is from experience. A much loved instrument was turned into a Dali-esque sculpture by the sun on a camping trip one time.
Avoid extreme cold.
Do not leave the instrument in the car for extended periods in the cold winter months while you go to work, run errands, or go out for dinner/coffee. But don't hesitate to take your ukulele with you to a jam or a party. It loves to go on outings any time of the year.
All the parts of the ukulele can become brittle and dried out with the cold, and in this brittle state, it is more susceptible to breaking. Also, in Canada, this is the leading cause of finish crazing.
If your instrument does become very cold, leave it in its case and allow it to come back to room temperature slowly. You may need to leave the case unopened for several hours. In this way, you can often avoid any damage occurring from its chilly escapade.
A quick lesson in wood technology and humidity control.
Keeping the instrument’s environment at a relative humidity (RH) of between 40-50% at room temperature helps keep the instrument stable. When solid wood is processed for the use in manufacturing, it is kiln-dried to less than 10% moisture content (MC), preferably in the 7-8% range. Even if the lumber has been properly kiln-dried to 7 or 8%, there can still be moisture problems. Wood is hydroscopic, which means it has the ability to take on and give off moisture until it reaches a balance with the surrounding air. The amount of moisture in a piece of wood when it reaches a balance with the air at a certain temperature and humidity is called Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC). This is the moisture content at which wood neither gains nor loses moisture from the surrounding air. However, as the humidity changes, the moisture content of the wood will change.
Air can hold only a certain amount of moisture and this amount varies as the temperature changes. RH expresses the percentage of this maximum which is actually being held by the air. For example, at 24C/75F, air can cold five times as much moisture as it can at 0C/32F. Consider a sample of air at 0C/32F and 100% RH. If the sample is heated to 24C/75F, and moisture content does not change, the RH will drop to 20%, that is, 1/5 of 100%.
In the cold weather, the outside air can hold very little moisture. As the air enters the home and is heated, its relative humidity becomes only a fraction of what it was outside. That is why wood in a home tends to dry out excessively in the winter months; wood becomes checked, cracked, or warped. Therefore it is desirable to increase the moisture in the air during the winter months and to reduce it in the summer.
You are trying to avoid allowing the wood to shrink to a smaller size than it was when it was assembled. This shrinking (and later expansion) introduces stresses and distortions that can lead to a variety of instrument diseases such as: cracks, lifted bridges, bad neck angles, sharp fret ends, bellying and other related issues.
Change strings from time to time.
Some people change every few weeks, some change twice a year, some once a year. It depends how much you play. Certainly at least once a year even if you only play infrequently.
Keep your ukulele clean.
Any soft cloth will help to remove fingerprints and the buildup of oil and dirt on your instrument. Occasionally, a bit of moisture will help for particularly heavy buildup of dirt and oil. A mixture of water and vinegar can be good for big jobs. There are also a number of instrument polishes on the market which probably won't damage your instrument.
When changing strings, lemon oil is nice to use to clean the fingerboard before restringing. It is good on most woods such as rosewood, walnut and others. ALL EXCEPT EBONY. Lemon oil should NOT used on ebony.
Avoid knocks, blows, falls etc.
Obvious, but nonetheless must be said.
Avoid metal buttons, zippers and other hard pointy objects that may damage the finish.
Also obvious, but awareness must continually be raised.
Have your instrument setup from time to time.
Even though the ukulele is well setup when you get it, over time and the changing of the seasons, adjustments will need to be done to keep the instrument in top form. For example, the frets on the fingerboard may need levelling, fret ends may need to be filed down, etc. A good instrument technician can make the necessary adjustments to your instrument to keep it sounding great and feeling wonderful to play. Think of it like a car or a bicycle tuneup - don’t they work great when you get them back from service?
How often? When it needs it. It could be yearly, could be longer. Up to you.