Get the Facts on Wicker Furniture

    Photo: biberta/morgueFileWow! Wicker furniture has long been known as a versatile, relatively inexpensive design option. But today’s wicker is taking a giant step further with gorgeous, contemporary and even hard-edged styling. If you think wicker is just for chintzy cottages or student apartments furnished on the cheap, it’s time to take another look. Here are the facts, good and not-so-good, on wicker furniture.

    Wicker is not actually a type of material but rather the name of a process. Wicker is made by weaving strips of either flexible rattan, willow, bamboo or reeds, or synthetic polyethylene fiber, also known as resin wicker. Natural wicker is woven onto a plant-based frame, while an aluminum or tubular steel frame is used with resin wicker.

    Natural wicker has been popular for centuries. Wicker furniture dating back over two millennia was found in the excavation of the tomb of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen

    Wicker furniture comes in a wide variety of styles. Whatever you’re looking for – patio, living room, bedroom or children’s room furnishings; traditional, modern, country or industrial; loosely or densely woven – there is wicker furniture out there to suit your taste and your lifestyle. You’ll find tables, chairs, ottomans, sofas, dressers, beds, cradles, bookcases, storage units, home accessories, and more.

    Comfortable and lightweight, wicker is also strong. Due to its weaving process, wicker furniture has a comfortable amount of flexibility and give. Its light weight makes it easy to move and to rearrange to your liking. At the same time, wicker is strong and durable. Some people find natural wicker scratchy to sit on; cushions are a quick solution to this problem.

    Wicker is beautiful. The natural color of plant-based wicker is attractive shades of beige. It may also be painted in the hue of your choice. Resin wicker comes in earthy colors like sage green, honey and chocolate brown.

    A large proportion of wicker furniture comes from renewable resources. Rattan is a sustainable tropical vine-like type of palm, which grows considerably faster than trees in the same region. Much of the synthetic material used in wicker production has been recycled.

    Sometimes natural wicker is combined with other materials to make furniture. If the chair seats or bookcase shelves are made of plywood, the glue used to attach them may off-gas hazardous chemicals such as formaldehyde. Let the buyer beware!

    The sun is hard on untreated natural wicker, similar to its effect on human skin. This is especially true if you live in a hot dry climate. Revive the wicker furniture on your deck with a soothing rub of lemon oil or boiled linseed oil.

    Natural wicker is susceptible to mold. Keep outdoor furniture fresh and extend its lifetime by bringing it inside during rainstorms and for the winter season.

    You can clean your wicker furniture with a garden hose – a great way to get dirt out of those little nooks and crannies. Just make sure the furniture has no wooden parts and never saturate natural wicker with water. Set out in the sun to dry, or blow it with a hair dryer.

    Rough spots on untreated plant-based wicker may be sanded down. Select a fine grained sandpaper and buff gently by hand.

    Laura Firszt writes for

    Updated May 31, 2018.

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