6 tips for wiping & washing wicker

Wicker comes in many finishes: from natural to oil, varnish, shellac or paint. Synthetic versions of wicker are also made from resin, plastic or fibreglass. The different materials require different cleaning techniques. Here's a helpful guide.

6 tips for wiping & washing wicker

1. Know your wicker

Wicker refers to something made of any of several natural materials that are bent and woven together. The most common are rattan (a solid-cored vine of a climbing palm), cane (the bark of large rattans), reed (swamp grasses or rattan core), bamboo (a large grass with a hollow core), willow and twisted paper fibre.

2. Be aggressive with synthetics

  • This is the only wicker that should be allowed to remain outdoors.
  • If water restrictions allow, clean it with a garden hose using a cloth or sponge, or scrub with a stiff brush and a solution of a little dishwashing liquid in water.
  • Rinse with the hose and dry with a clean cloth.

3. Clean natural-fibre wicker first

  • Keep natural-fibre wicker pieces free of dirt with a vacuum cleaner, using the brush attachment.
  • Other useful tools are a toothbrush, a stiff paintbrush and a pencil-sized dowel sharpened in a pencil sharpener.
  • Wipe the wicker with a damp cloth or sponge, but undertake more extensive wet cleaning cautiously.
  • Consult an expert before doing any major cleaning or re-finishing of antique pieces.
  • To find an expert, check with antiques dealers or on the Internet.

4. Wash with care

  • To wash most natural-fibre wicker, use a solution of a little mild soap — dishwashing liquid or laundry detergent, for example — in warm water.
  • Wipe with a cloth or sponge wrung out in the solution.
  • Rinse with a garden hose and dry quickly — in the sun or with a hair dryer or fan.
  • Don't sit on the furniture for two or three days, because you could stretch the fibres and cause them to sag.

5. No hose here

  • Some exceptions to hosing down are bamboo or twisted-paper wicker.
  • Instead, clean these with a sponge dampened with soapy water, followed by a sponge dampened with clear water.
  • Wipe dry.

6. Treat dryness & cracking

  • Use one part turpentine to two parts boiled linseed oil on all natural-fibre wicker, except for bamboo.
  • Apply with a clean paintbrush, using as much solution as the wicker will absorb.
  • You could also use a wood product.
  • Wipe off any excess with a cloth and let it dry for three or four days.
  • For bamboo, apply a thin coat of liquid or paste wax periodically.
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