Protecting Guns from Humidity

There’s more to safe storage than locking guns in a safe.

Protecting Guns from Humidity

When customers buy a gun safe, they show that they value their firearms and want to protect them. But there’s more to protecting guns than just securing them from theft and misuse. Other dangers exist that even a gun safe can’t protect against.  

One hazard looms high above all the rest — rust. Rust isn’t inevitable. In fact, it’s easily prevented by following some very simple rules. Teach your customers what they need to know and what products will help them get the most out of their safe purchase.


What is Rust?

When refined steel is exposed to moisture, either water or high humidity, the oxygen combines with the iron or steel, creating a reddish-brown oxide called rust. Once it begins, the process continues as long as the metal remains in contact with the water molecules. Oxygen in the water is not the only concern. Contaminants such as chlorine and salt, dirt from fingerprints, and even the hydrogen in water, can create acidic conditions that further accelerate the corrosion. Temperature plays a role as well. Heat is known to speed up chemical processes. If not prevented, rust will begin in as little as seven days. Moisture can also affect other common items, like paper, cloth, and leather, by the formation of mildew.  

Gun safes are not airtight. They aren’t designed to be. Air from the surrounding room is going to enter the safe, and it will bring the room’s humidity with it. Every time the safe is opened, an air exchange takes place. There’s no way to avoid moisture in the safe, but you can show your customers how to make it safer for their guns. Logic would say that there should be no moisture at all, but humidity that is too low is just as harmful as when it’s too high. Without some moisture, wooden stocks will begin to dry and crack. There must be balance. 

The ideal conditions for storing firearms are when the temperature is between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity level is kept between 30 and 50%.  Don’t worry. You don’t have to sell a complete heating and cooling system with each safe, but you do have to teach your customers how to maintain these conditions in their safe. Let’s look at some of the best practices for you to recommend.


1. Never store a wet firearm. 

It’s common sense, but many people find out the hard way that they can’t just wipe off a hunting gun exposed to rain. Disassembly and cleaning are necessary to get to the hidden moisture between the stock, barrel and other parts. Any place where moisture can hide needs to be thoroughly cleaned and dried. Afterward, a protective product should be applied to prevent water from forming on the metal. Wooden stocks should also have wax or oil applied to protect them. Storing one wet gun exposes all of the others to danger.


2.  Store the safe in a controlled environment.

The air surrounding the safe is going to determine the air inside of it. Safes are best stored inside the home, where temperature and moisture are controlled.  Putting a safe in a damp basement or out in a storage shed in humid conditions is a sure way to increase the risk of damage to guns. Additionally, safes should be kept out of direct sunlight. Most safes are painted dark colors, which will absorb heat quickly. That heat will transfer to the stored guns. (Think of sitting on a black leather seat after it’s been in the sun.) If the room is humid, it’s a good idea to add a dehumidifier to keep the moisture level down. I know people who store their safe in a garage but have an electric dehumidifier that keeps the area dry.


3.  Actively monitor and control the humidity.

Show your customers both active and passive devices for controlling moisture.  Active (electric) dehumidifiers such as the Golden Rod or the Peet dryer contain heating elements that maintain a stable temperature and promote air circulation. They are proven solutions. Passive dehumidifiers are those with a moisture-absorbing desiccant. They can be cans of a desiccant such as Hornady makes or those like Eva-Dry makes, which can be plugged in periodically to be recharged.  Some people even use dry rice to absorb moisture. (It’s a trick that has been adapted to fix wet cell phones.)  

Active dehumidifiers are set-and-forget items. Passive ones require monitoring and periodic refreshing. It’s a good idea to monitor moisture levels until the safe is stabilized and consistently maintains the recommended guidelines.


4.  Get the right products for effective protection.

Proper protective coatings such as oils or silicone-based products create a protective barrier for metal surfaces. That protection lessens the chance of moisture affecting the guns. The same is true for wooden stocks. They should have a light coat of wax or oil applied as well. Don’t forget gun cloths to wipe off fingerprints or other contaminants after handling. 

In addition to things that should be done, there are several that should not be done.  

Sometimes people inadvertently do things that they think are right but actually increase the risk of rust on their guns. 


Storing guns in original cardboard boxes.

When guns are shipped from the manufacturer, they are carefully packaged.  Sometimes they come in cardboard boxes. It might seem logical to store them that way, but it’s actually harmful  Cardboard absorbs moisture, thereby exposing the gun to the very thing we’re trying to protect it from.


Don’t store guns in holsters.

It is common sense that leather absorbs and holds moisture. Anyone who has worn leather boots in the rain can attest to that. But even nylon or Kydex holsters can attract or hold moisture. Safes are for storing guns rather than holsters. Some safes come with holsters on the inside of the door for handguns. They are convenient but fall in the same category as other holsters.


Don’t store guns in padded cases or gun rugs.

We use these things to protect our guns when they are not in the safe. They can have the opposite effect inside it. These are made of soft materials that absorb moisture and are best set aside for transporting guns rather than storing them.


Don’t overcrowd the guns.

Air circulation is an important factor in preventing moisture from accumulating.  Guns should be stored so that they do not touch and there is ventilation space between them. Most safes come with spacers built in for rifles and shotguns. Pistols should be stored in a pistol rack. 

If you teach your customers these practices, they will have rust-free firearms when they open their safe. These are all simple and relatively inexpensive solutions that should be easy to sell. In addition, they are generally high-profit items. Don’t let your customers leave without explaining these practices and recommending the products. The customer has already shown interest in protecting their guns. Help them do that and help your sales as well.


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