Wicker furniture is woven around a solid frame from strands of coarse natural fibers–most often rattan or raffia from a palm plant. Although wicker is quite durable, it does require some care. Often used on outdoor patios, it is subject to the ravages of both sun and rain.
Too much sun or indoor heat can result in dry, brittle wicker, which cracks and becomes unraveled. Too much rain can result in mildewed furniture that must be treated and sealed. Even though mildew problems are caused by moisture, remedies can still leave the wicker dried and in need of hydration and protective care.
Excessive drying is one of the most common reasons for the deterioration of wicker furniture. Preventing drying is simple. Just mist the furniture periodically with a plant mister or wipe with a damp cloth. A quick washing with a hose is unlikely to cause serious harm but can result in mildew problems if drying conditions are not ideal and can also compromise the strength of joints that are held together by glue. Often the underside of the furniture has less protective finish and is therefore better able to absorb and benefit from a regular misting.
Accumulation of oils, grease, mildew and dirt can damage the woven fabric of your wicker furniture. Vacuum your wicker first using the upholstery or crevice tool of your vacuum. Use a soft toothbrush and water to which a mild detergent has been added to remove remaining dirt and grime. Mildew should be scrubbed away with a toothbrush dipped in a mild solution of bleach and water or in a commercial mildewcide that has been diluted in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Wipe clean with a damp cloth after treatment.
Properly sealed fibers are less likely to lose moisture, so once you have cleaned and revitalized your wicker furniture it is a good idea to apply a new coat of shellac, lacquer, varnish, paint or other sealant to your furniture. Use the product that most closely matches the original finish.
Water is not the only substance that can rehydrate dried-out wicker. Lemon oil and boiled linseed oil work as well. While commercial lemon oil, generally marketed as a furniture polish, dries rather quickly, boiled linseed oil takes longer to dry and should be applied lightly and left for at least a week to dry before the furniture is put back into service.
Regular cleaning and hydrating is essential to preserving any protective finish on your wicker furniture and is especially important if you choose to keep your furniture in a raw, unfinished state. If you prepare and maintain a schedule of regular maintenance, your wicker furniture should last for many years.