Wicker Furniture... Care and Cleaning
Our thanks to the folks at Michigan University
Extension, who allowed us to
reproduce this article by Anne Field,
Extension Specialist, Emeritus.
wicker cleaning comments from NH at the end of this article!!
"Wicker" refers to a variety of vines, grasses and plants that are
woven into furniture. There are four major types of wicker: rattan, reed, willow
and bamboo. (Note from NH... see special tip on bamboo at end of article)
Dust regularly with small brush or vacuum. Spills should be taken care of
immediately before they harden or stain, by wiping with a sponge wrung from
Wicker likes humidity but it is not considered nor intended to be
used as outdoor furniture. Rain, direct
sunlight, and dew are damaging to wicker.
Dry indoor heat dries wicker causing it to
crackle and creak under pressure. Wiping occasionally with a damp (not wet)
sponge may help.
Regular cleaning for a longer, happier life...
To clean periodically, vacuum away loose dirt. Prepare a solution of
detergent and water. Skim the suds off into a damp sponge and apply to furniture, working on a small portion at a
time. Use a small brush in crevices. Do not wet wooden parts of furniture. Wipe
off suds with clean damp sponge.
Special wicker cleaning considerations...
Perhaps once a year or every other year, raw wicker may need complete
washing. Dust with a vacuum brush. Scrub with warm water and detergent using
sponge or soft brush; spray rinse with a garden hose outside, or put under the
shower. Dry chair as fast as possible by putting in the hot sun, using hair
drier, or directing a fan onto it to keep air circulating. A windy day is good
to aid drying. On painted wicker only wash and rinse as you would painted wood;
wetting as above may crack and peel the paint. If furniture has wooden parts, do
not wet them; use only periodical cleaning method as described
Never use or sit on wicker until it is completely dry. Allow several days.
After wicker is thoroughly dry (several days after washing), check all surfaces for sharp strands or fuzzy
places. Sand them smooth with fine sandpaper.
Protecting wicker from the elements... natural and human!
A coating of clear varnish, shellac or lacquer can be applied. If a spray can
is used, spray furniture outside. Painted wicker can be freshened with a new
coat of paint. Allow several days for drying before using.
A thin coating of liquid furniture wax applied after the new finish is
completely dry will help maintain the gloss finish. If sealed and waxed it can be kept clean by regular cleaning and
should not need the complete washing.
CAUTION FOR BAMBOO...
Wipe with sponge dampened with sudsy water, wipe with clear water and dry. Do
not rinse by hosing. A thin coat of liquid wax will restore shine.
Some additional thoughts on cleaning
and preserving wicker from NH...
Cleaning wicker is messy work! Take the piece outside if you can
and wash it thoroughly with detergent such as TSP or TSP-substitute to remove
all dust and dirt. If you think there is mildew on the piece... it usually
appears as small black dots that may not wash off... add a cup of household
bleach to each gallon of cleaning solution.
Let the detergent/bleach mixture remain on the chair for at least 5 minutes
before rinsing thoroughly with clear water. If you have already washed the piece
and find lingering mildew, you can spray it with a 50/50 bleach water mix and
rinse after 5 minutes or when mildew disappears.
Bathroom mildew removing sprays
work well, too, but rinse thoroughly because residual bleach can damage the
Allow the wicker dry thoroughly for at least a day before applying a finish.
Any clear finish such as varnish, shellac or lacquer can be used to keep that
"natural" look. Flat finishes will give the most natural look...
glossier finishes will add more durability and cleanability. Polyurethane works
great, too! You can also paint the piece if desired.
For ease of application, the clear sealers can be sprayed on with an ordinary
plastic spray bottle, available at most hardware stores. After 10 minutes wipe
off excess sealer to prevent the formation of "tacky" spots.
Paint can be either sprayed or brushed. Canned spray paints work particularly
well, but expect to use quite a few cans!