Rattan furniture may also be wicker furniture, but wicker furniture isn't necessarily rattan. That's because rattan is a material, while wicker is a weaving technique used for a number of materials, including bamboo, reed, willow, and synthetics.
Sometimes called cane, rattan is derived from the stems and branches of a number of tropical climbing plants and vines, and when dry, it takes on a woody texture and appearance. Furniture made from this material is usually closely woven, and the finished product is often painted or coated with a clear finish. Many people keep their rattan furniture outdoors where, as you might expect, the finish wears off, and the rattan itself becomes discolored. Before refinishing rattan furniture with varnish, you need to clean and sand it.
Video of the Day
How to Clean Rattan Furniture
Before you recoat your rattan furniture with varnish, you need to clean it to remove any discoloration, which is often caused by mold. Because rattan is a porous material, bleach isn't an effective way to kill the mold because bleach can't soak into the pores and kill the roots. Instead, the best way to kill mold and clean off dirt and other causes of discoloration is to give the piece a good scrubbing with soap and water.
Fill a 2-gallon bucket with warm water and about an ounce of all-purpose liquid cleaner. Then, get a fairly stiff scrub brush and go to work. Scrub all parts of the piece until you've removed all the dark spots and then rinse off the piece with a garden hose and let it dry out in the sun for several days. When the piece is completely dry, you're ready to move on to sanding and refinishing.
How to Sand Rattan Furniture
Before you apply varnish to wood or any woody material, like rattan, you should sand it. This helps prime it for the finish and ensure the finish will adhere without peeling. You don't need heavy sandpaper for this — 120- or 150-grit sandpaper is coarse enough.
You want the sandpaper to reach into the weave as far as possible, and while you can do this by sanding by hand, it's obviously a tedious procedure. Using a palm sander isn't a good option either because not only won't it reach into the weave but it will probably remove too much material. The best option is to use a 120-grit flap wheel with your drill.
Insert the flap wheel into the drill and run it lightly over the entire piece from top to bottom, going both along the weave and against it. Don't apply much downward pressure; you're not trying to remove material, just lightly scratch it and in the bargain, remove any dirt that might still be there. When you're finished, blow off the sanding dust with a leaf blower.
Apply Varnish With a Spray Can
Forget about applying varnish with a paintbrush; you'll have a hard time getting material into the weave and in trying, you'll probably get drips. Instead, purchase the varnish in a spray can. You'll probably need one can per coat for an average-size rattan chair and double that for a sofa. Work in a well-ventilated area and wear a respirator.
Spray a thin coat of exterior varnish, which is the best finish for cane furniture, over the whole piece. Let it dry and apply another coat. This is better than trying to get complete coverage with a single coat and laying on the material so thick that it drips. There's no problem with applying a third coat if you see streaks or incomplete coverage after the second. After applying the final coat, wait at least 48 hours before using the furniture.