Caring for Wicker Furniture

With a little care and gentle cleaning, the natural fibers of wicker furniture will look good for years. Follow these smart tips to clean and care for wicker.

Pretty wicker furniture adds cottage or vintage style to any space—whether it's a patio, a sunroom, or an indoor living area. However, the tight weave of the wicker material makes cleaning a little tricky and time intensive. But the effort you put into cleaning wicker furniture will be well worth it. Read on for wicker cleaning tips, plus how to restore and refresh wicker pieces.

The term "wicker" actually refers to the technique of bending and weaving a material such as paper, rattan, bamboo, other grasses, or thin woods such as willow branches. Look carefully at your pieces for identifying properties—the characteristic rings on bamboo, the rough bark of a tree branch—to determine what your wicker furniture is made from. Some wicker-looking furniture is also made from synthetic materials, like resins.

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How to Clean Wicker Furniture

No matter what the material, a little bit of maintenance and routine cleaning will keep your wicker furniture looking great. An occasional quick clean works wonders and covering outdoor wicker furniture when it's not in use will prevent fading. Resin wicker is more durable and less susceptible to rot and splintering and can easily be cleaned with soap in water. While sturdy, resin wicker pieces used outdoors should still be covered when not in use.

For routine cleaning of wicker that's made of bamboo, rattan, or willow, brush off or vacuum as much of the surface dirt as you can. Then wash it with a soft brush and soapy water to which you've added one or two teaspoons of ammonia. Rinse well and let the piece dry outdoors in the sun. For those hard-to-reach places and crevices, use a can of compressed air (typically used for cleaning crevices in electronics and keyboards) to gently blast out the dirt and particles a vacuum can't reach. You can also use a toothbrush to get into tricky spots. Keep up on this regular dusting and vacuuming routine and a wicker piece should remain fairly pristine.

To remove grime from wicker furniture that's a more than just dusty, use a mild oil-base soap, such as Murphy Oil Soap, mixed with warm water. For a homemade cleaner, mix 1⁄4 cup ammonia, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, and 1 quart warm water. Follow any ventilation recommendations and other precautions outlined by the ammonia manufacturer on the bottle. Patio furniture cleaners may also be effective for outdoor wicker furniture, but be sure to read directions carefully. Some patio furniture cleaners may need to be diluted if they are to be used on wicker furniture.

To clean wicker made from twisted paper or grasses, simply wipe with a damp cloth. Furniture made from synthetic wicker materials can also often withstand being hosed down.

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Wicker Furniture Care Tips

Wicker furniture is also prone to mildew. A mild oil-based soap, such as Murphy Oil soap, mixed with water will generally remove mildew. Ensuring a wicker furniture piece dries well after a cleaning can also help prevent mildew. Place wicker furniture in the sun to dry or use a fan to speed up dry time.

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. Be sure to let it dry for several days before sitting on freshly oiled chairs, or add cushions to keep from getting oil on your clothing.

Occasionally inspect wicker to identify any snags or broken pieces. If the damage is extensive, or looks like it could become major, seek out 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 their customer service team. The manufacturer may be able to provide some guidance on how to repair your furniture or where to source materials.

No matter what steps you take for cleaning wicker furniture, if you have access to an owner's manual or instructions from where you purchased a wicker piece, follow their guidance and instruction.

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Painting Wicker Furniture

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

Refresh beyond a good cleaning: Learn how to paint wicker.

Preserve Your Antiques

If you have an antique piece of wicker, just clean the surface carefully but don't attempt to change it. Painting antique natural wicker, for example, will greatly reduce its value. Antique items are also more delicate and intense cleaning or alternating may damage the piece.

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