Question from a reader:
I got some white small spots on my cigars and also in the humidor, most likely it's mold. Can you please help me with a few tips?
One day you go to get a cigar out of your humidor and you notice something: there is a change in the appearance of your cigars. Maybe you see some fuzzy patches on your cigar wrappers, or perhaps some white spots on the cigars or the sides of the humidor. You immediately have a sinking feeling — could your cigars be ruined by mold? What can you do to identify, prevent, and remove mold from your cigars?
Is it Mold or Bloom?
First things first. You need to figure out whether the “mold” on your cigars is really mold or not. It could just as well be something else called bloom, or plume. As the oils in your cigar rise slowly to the surface, they crystallize at the top, giving a “dusted” appearance to the wrapper of your cigar. As bloom progresses, you will see whiteness coating your cigar—usually fairly evenly, though there may still be some spottiness to it.
Note that sometimes bloom does not form evenly. Sometimes it will take the form of white spots. If your cigar has white spots, it may be bloom and it may be mold. Look at the texture of the spots. If they look hairy or fibrous, they are mold. If they look crystalline/dusty, they are probably bloom. You can find a comparative picture in this article about cigar wrappers.
Bloom on cigars is not a problem. In fact, some cigar smokers prefer their cigars to have bloom.
Mold on the other hand is a fungus which appears on cigars when your humidor’s environment isn’t being properly maintained. Once the humidity level exceeds 80%, mold may start to form on the wrappers and the sides of the humidor. Look for telltale patches of blue or grey, green or white fuzz.
What to Do About Mold
If all you have is bloom, you don’t need to do anything about it. But if you have mold, take the moldy cigars and set them aside so the mold doesn’t spread to your other stogies, and wipe down the humidor’s interior walls using an isopropyl alcohol solution. The mold will be killed by the alcohol. Unfortunately, the mold may leave permanent stains on the humidor’s walls.
When you wipe down your humidor, if you do not see any stains, you may have only had bloom, but it’s not a guarantee. If you do see stains, that’s an additional sign you do have mold. You can actually still smoke the moldy cigars (if the mold is white; if it's green or blue it's most likely that the cigar is lost), as long as the mold hasn’t spread to the interior. First you will want to kill that mold, though. You may be able to accomplish this by keeping the cigars outside your humidor for 36 hours and then putting them back inside. If you are feeling more aggressive, you can put them in the freezer.
You don’t want this to happen again, so reduce the humidity level in your humidor to around 72%, and make sure the temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Some fluctuation is fine, as long as things stay within a reasonable range (about 66-79%). Outside that range, you’ll encounter problems with freshness. If your humidor is malfunctioning, you may have to replace it. Check on your cigars regularly to ensure your problem is solved.