Wicker is the twig-like plant material that has traditionally come from bamboo and reed, and used in a vast range of high-quality outdoor furniture. Recently, rattan, material obtained from palm trees, has replaced existing alternatives. It has quickly become one of most popular types of wicker in use in furniture.
Rattan furniture is light and cheap; it isn’t a strong material, though. If you’d like to see your investment last forever, though, it can be done – you only need to put in a little work. You do need to learn the rules of rattan care.
Avoid direct exposure
Exposure to the elements can ruin almost any material; rattan is no different. To begin, direct sunlight can dry the wood out, and even crack the varnish. Rattan that is dry becomes brittle and splinters before long. It’s important, then, that you keep your furniture in a sheltered area.
In many high-humidity environments, outdoor rattan furniture is also usually at risk of damage from mold and mildew. If your furniture is out on the patio, running a dehumidifier in the area can help. When you put your furniture away for storage for the winter, you need to make sure that you don’t choose a crawlspace, basement or another damp area.
While it can be tempting to sit directly on your rattan chairs, direct pressure on woven rattan can cause sagging and eventual breakage. Direct, unprotected use also comes with the risk of damage from spills and stains. Good rattan furniture makers such as Bridgman tend to design stain-proofing into their products. If you have older furniture that doesn’t come with such protection, though, you can always use cushions on your chairs and table cloths your tables.
Be quick to clean up spills
Cleaning spills right after they happen isn’t just about pleasing appearance — many foods contain mild acid that work into rattan, and cause damage over time. Take a damp cloth to any spills as soon as they happen, and thoroughly clean them off.
Clean outdoor furniture on a regular basis
Regular cleaning is important to making sure that the varnish on your rattan remains smooth. If you allow dust to settle on your furniture, it can quickly become embedded in the varnish itself, and make you furniture look and feel rough and grimy.
Cleaning isn’t just about wanting down with a damp cloth. Over time, the moisture and the dirt will begin to build up. Instead, wipe dust away thoroughly with a dry cloth, and use a brush to clean dust off latticework and other nooks and crevices. You can then use specialized rat and cleaning solutions. Once you clean your furniture, you should be sure to not use it until it is completely dry. Dampness tends to weaken wicker.
Use liquid wax every year
If your rattan is varnished rather than painted, polishing it with liquid wax once a year will help it retain its natural shine, and protect the material. If you don’t have liquid wax, oiling your furniture will help, too. It can keep moisture from entering the rattan, and can help make the natural gloss of varnish last. Oil and wax applications are especially important when you get cracks and splits. If you notice any, applying wax on those parts will strengthen them and keep them from drying out.
Be careful how you move your furniture
The feet of your furniture are its most sensitive parts. While they tend to be fully capable of taking weight, sideways forces tend to be poorly tolerated. With time, such movement can cause the fibers of the rattan to come apart. It’s important, then, that you use good rubber feet on your furniture. Even with protected rubber feet it is always a good idea to pick up your furniture before you move it. Dragging is always risky.
Rotate you furniture on a regular basis
Make sure that you use all you furniture to the same degree. It’s easy to do so – you only need to rotate your chairs around once a week or so. This way, you’ll use every piece of furniture the same amount, and prevent overuse to any one.
Unlike other types of wicker, rattan tends to need some care – it isn’t a naturally hardy material. It isn’t much work, though. With only a little time spent, your furniture will last you a lifetime.
You can find lots of outdoor wicker patio furniture on sites like Wayfair.com and in stores like Target and Big Lots for a decent price. Just make sure no matter where you buy your rattan patio furniture, you take care of it so it will last more than one season!