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.

See additional wicker cleaning comments from NH at the end of this article!!

About Wicker...

"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)

Wicker care...

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 sudsy water.

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.


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 wicker!

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!