When you choose rattan chairs and tables for your patio or garden space, you expect them to last for years. Outdoor furniture is a significant investment, and it should be designed to be durable enough to withstand rain, UV rays, and other potentially damaging weather conditions. But if you have natural rattan furniture indoors, you know that it's not the most durable material. Outdoor rattan furniture should be constructed differently, making it water-resistant if not entirely waterproof.
With Rattan, Type Matters
In order to gauge the sturdiness of your rattan furniture, it's important to understand what kind of material you have. Natural rattan is a kind of vine that grows in many parts of the world. Furniture made of rattan is often also called wicker, though this describes the weaving process that's used rather than the material itself.
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Natural rattan is vulnerable to water damage just like bamboo and other kinds of wooden or plant-based materials. When natural wicker furniture gets wet, mold and mildew can start to flourish. UV rays can also cause color fading in natural rattan.
To make all-weather outdoor furniture that's lightweight and has the wicker look that so many people love, manufacturers started creating synthetic rattan. These materials mimic the look of natural rattan but are actually made of sturdy plastic resin. PE (polyethylene) rattan is a common type of material that's used in outdoor furniture today, as is PVC rattan.
Is Rattan Furniture Waterproof?
Assuming you have synthetic wicker outdoor furniture, your rattan should be highly water-resistant. Any PE rattan furniture that's sold for outdoor use should be able to withstand rain and snow without becoming rotted, moldy, and/or discolored.
While all-weather wicker patio furniture may be sold as weatherproof and waterproof, even synthetic materials can eventually show signs of UV and water damage after spending many years out in the elements. Rattan patio furniture can remain in good condition for five to seven years or even longer if you take steps to protect it.
Protecting Rattan Furniture
While restoring damaged rattan furniture can be done, it's obviously preferable to protect your outdoor furniture from damage in the first place.
First, shield rattan pieces from harmful weather conditions. Position them in places that get at least partial shade if possible. Use an outdoor furniture cover whenever you know wet weather is coming or whenever you know you won't be using the furniture soon. There's no need to buy any special wicker furniture covers or get individual covers that perfectly fit each item. Simply cluster furniture together and use a single large waterproof cover to quickly protect everything from the elements.
Second, maintain rattan furniture to keep it from becoming dry and brittle. Use boiled linseed oil to condition rattan once a year. Paint a layer of the oil onto the rattan. The goal is to apply as much oil as the material will absorb. Use a paper towel to wipe away any excess that doesn't soak in.