Your Guide to Cleaning Wicker (and Preserving It for Years to Come)

Follow these smart tips for wicker furniture care and—with a little care and gentle cleaning—the natural fibers will look beautiful season after season.

outdoor living space

Pretty wicker furniture adds cottage or vintage style to any space where hanging out happens—whether it's a patio, a sunroom, or an indoor living area. However, the tight weave of the wicker material makes cleaning challenging and time-consuming. Don't abandon your natural outdoor furniture to the elements, though—you'll gain extra years from your pieces if you put in the effort to clean them. Read on for our tips and tricks for cleaning wicker, plus easy ways to restore and refresh worn-out wicker pieces.

The term "wicker" actually refers to a technique—it involves the bending and weaving of natural materials such as paper, rattan, bamboo, other grasses, or thin woods like willow branches. Carefully examine your pieces for identifying properties—the characteristic rings on bamboo, the rough bark of a tree branch—to determine what was used to make your wicker furniture. Some wicker-style furniture is also made from synthetic materials, like resins.

How to Clean Wicker Furniture

living room with wicker chairs and daybed

Whether your wicker is bamboo or rattan or some other material, a little bit of maintenance and routine cleaning will keep it looking fresh. The first step to extending the life of your wicker: Purchase covers for any pieces that stay outdoors, since shielding wicker furniture from the elements when it's not being used will prevent fading. Next, add these strategies for wicker furniture care to your cleaning routine.

Wicker Made of Bamboo, Rattan, or Willow

For routine cleaning, brush off or vacuum as much of the surface dirt as you can. Then wash the wicker with a soft brush and soapy water mixed with 1 or 2 teaspoons of ammonia. Rinse well and let the piece dry outside in the sun. Gently blow hard-to-reach dirt and particles out of the crevices that a vacuum can't reach with a can of compressed air (typically used for cleaning electronics and keyboards). You can also use a toothbrush to clean tricky spots. If you make this vacuuming and dusting part of your regular cleaning routine, your wicker should remain fairly pristine.

To remove grime from wicker furniture that's more than just dusty, use a mild oil-base soap, such as Murphy Oil Soap, diluted with warm water. (Follow any ventilation recommendations and other precautions stated on the soap bottle.) For a homemade cleaner, mix 1⁄4 cup of ammonia, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, and 1 quart of warm water. Patio furniture cleaners may also work for outdoor wicker furniture, but be sure to read the directions carefully—some need to be diluted before use on wicker furniture.

Wicker Made of Twisted Paper or Grasses

Caring for these materials is much less complicated: Simply wipe them down with a damp cloth.

Synthetic Wicker

Since resin wicker is more durable and less susceptible to rot and splintering than wicker made of natural materials, it can easily be cleaned with soap and water. Furniture made from synthetic wicker materials can also often withstand being hosed down.

Tips for Routine Wicker Furniture Care

outdoor patio chairs, wicker

Wage War on Mildew

One of the downsides of wicker furniture is that it's prone to mildewing. To prevent unsightly stains and smells, routinely scrub away any mildew, using a mild oil-based soap, such as Murphy Oil soap, mixed with water. After cleanings, make sure to let your wicker dry well before covering it to help prevent mildewing. Place wicker furniture in the sun to dry or use a fan to speed up dry time.

Buy Oil for Wicker Furniture

To restore unpainted or natural wicker to its warm glow, rub it with linseed oil (available at art supply stores), then gently wipe off the excess. Let freshly-oiled chairs dry for several days before sitting on them or add cushions to keep the oil off your clothing.

Check for Damage

Occasionally inspect your wicker to identify any snags or broken pieces. If you discover extensive damage (or find a flaw that looks like it could become major), seek the assistance of a furniture repair or restoration professional. In some cases, the repair might be a do-it-yourself project; you can find caning and reeds available online. If you know who manufactured your furniture, contact the customer service team for guidance on how to repair your furniture or where to source materials.

If you have access to an owner's manual or instructions from the store where you purchased your wicker pieces, always refer to those guidelines first.

How to Paint Wicker Furniture

blue wicker chair

Sometimes a good cleaning just won't cut it and the only way to restore wicker furniture is with a good makeover. Read our guide to painting wicker and learn which paint is best for wicker furniture and more. You can adapt this technique for painting wicker baskets, too.

How to Preserve Your Antique Wicker Pieces

living room with bird prints

If you have an antique piece of wicker, clean the surface carefully, keeping in mind that intense cleaning can damage older pieces. Don't attempt to freshen up your antique wicker with paint—this will significantly reduce its value. Instead embrace the worn spots as reminders of generations past who enjoyed the wicker as much as you do.

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