Wicker is beautiful and durable. In fact, good-quality wicker furniture can last several lifetimes, if taken care of properly. But sometimes old finishes wear down -- especially if the furniture is exposed to the sun or other elements. Fortunately, with a little know-how, wicker is relatively easy to refinish.
It's always smart to clean wicker before refinishing it. Once the piece is refinished, proper cleaning will also make the finish last longer.
Start by brushing the furniture with a vegetable brush or use a vacuum with a small brush attachment. If necessary, you can also wash the wicker, but care must be taken not to get the wicker too wet. Use a mild dish soap or a mix of one gallon of water to two tablespoons of ammonia. Use a sponge or soft cloth, and only get the wicker slightly damp. Dry with a clean, dry cloth.
If you have a piece of painted wicker and it needs coats of paint removed so a new paint job will look neater, use a little liquid stripper. The wicker will become loose and flexible as you use the stripper, but it will regain its shape when dry. While the furniture is wet, work carefully, so as to not damage the wicker itself. Use a toothbrush to get into small areas.
Painted wicker usually cannot be stained after the paint is removed because some of the paint will likely have been absorbed and will have permanently stained it.
After stripping, allow the wicker to dry at least 48 hours before painting.
First, apply a spray-on primer. Use as many coats as necessary (allowing the primer to dry between coats) to cover up any dark spots on the wicker. When this is thoroughly dry, spray or brush on two coats of paint -- again allowing the furniture to dry between applications. Finally, apply a spray-on finish. Lacquer is a good choice; polyurethane, on the other hand, will probably crack because wicker is so flexible.
If the wicker was originally stained and you'd like to keep it that way, first clean and dry the furniture thoroughly.
Next, you can try one of two methods. Before refinishing the entire piece, be sure to test an area of the furniture that's inconspicuous, since many types of finishes have been used on wicker over the years.
Method One: Apply a spray stain on the wicker, following the manufacturer's directions.
Method Two: Create a mixture of 1/3 turpentine and 2/3 professionally boiled linseed oil. (Do not boil linseed oil yourself; it's flammable.) Apply with a brush and allow to sit for at least three days, then blot up any oil that remains with a cloth towel. Use an oil-based stain color that is close to the original, and follow it with two coats of oil-based lacquer. Always make sure each coat dries completely before applying another.