How to Refresh Dried-Out Wicker

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Wicker, which refers to a process of weaving plant or paper fibers rather than a specific fiber, lasts for years in proper conditions, but in harsh conditions or with too much sun exposure, it could dry out and turn brittle. Refreshing the wicker is best done by cleaning it first and then applying some sort of protective coating. Once you've refreshed the wicker item, keep it in an area with moderate humidity, out of the elements, and without long periods of direct sun exposure. Here's how to refresh and restore dried-out wicker.

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How to Clean Wicker Items

Whether your wicker is a vintage basket or a favorite side chair, cleaning it from time to time helps keep it in top shape. Any wicker maintenance also requires some cleanup work first. Start by dusting the wicker item either with a feather duster or a soft-bristle brush, such a natural-bristle paintbrush. If you like, keep a vacuum cleaner running alongside each area you dust to immediately suck up dust particles.

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Dip a lint-free white cloth into some cool water, wring it out, and then gently wipe or blot the entire wicker item, such as a basket that's only used indoors or a piece made of some type of grass or twisted paper.

For a deeper cleaning, which might be needed on wicker furniture that isn't made of grass or paper twists:

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  1. Mix a squirt or so of mild soap, such as dish soap, into a bucket of cool water.
  2. Dip the lint-free white cloth into the soapy water, wring it out, and wipe down the piece. Use a soft-bristle brush, such as an old toothbrush, dipped into the soapy water to clean dirty crevices.
  3. Wipe down everything again with a damp cloth containing just water.
  4. Let the wicker dry completely before using it or working on it.

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How to Restore Moisture to Wicker

If your unpainted wicker item is so dried out that it feels brittle or if its original finish has peeled away, a linseed oil mixture helps restore its luster:

  1. Mix 2 parts boiled linseed oil with 1 part turpentine in a can or bucket.
  2. Set the wicker item on a plastic tarp in an area such as a garage with an open door. A patio also does the trick; just choose an area with plenty of airflow that stays dry.
  3. Dip a quality brush into the linseed oil solution and then brush it over the wicker using the brush to push it into all the fibers.
  4. Blot up any excess linseed oil and then let the wicker item sit for several days. Inspect it for any pools of oil and then blot those up as needed.
  5. Apply an oil-based varnish on the wicker afterward if desired. Water-based finishes won't adhere to linseed oil unless the oil has completely dried.

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If the wicker item has old paint on it and the paint is worn off, gently sand the piece instead of using a linseed oil treatment and then test paint an inconspicuous area to ensure it adheres. Wipe off all the dust with a damp cloth, let the wicker dry, and then spray the piece with an all-in-one spray primer and paint designed for wicker. While brush-on paints and primers work, spray paint gets into the crevices better, and it takes far less time to use.

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