Due to their low-temperature processing properties and inherent mechanical flexibility, conjugated polymer field-effect transistors (FETs) are promising candidates for enabling flexible electronic circuits and displays. Much progress has been made on materials performance; however, there remain significant concerns about operational and environmental stability, particularly in the context of applications that require a very high level of threshold voltage stability, such as active-matrix addressing of organic light-emitting diode displays. Here, we investigate the physical mechanisms behind operational and environmental degradation of high-mobility, p-type polymer FETs and demonstrate an effective route to improve device stability. We show that water incorporated in nanometre-sized voids within the polymer microstructure is the key factor in charge trapping and device degradation. By inserting molecular additives that displace water from these voids, it is possible to increase the stability as well as uniformity to a high level sufficient for demanding industrial applications.