Wicker: A Complete Guide to History, Materials, and Care

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  June 22, 2022
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Wicker is a woven material made from twigs and stems of plants, usually used to make furniture. Wicker has been used for thousands of years and originated in ancient Egypt. It’s a popular choice for outdoor furniture because it’s lightweight and strong. It also looks natural and fits well into a garden setting. 

So, let’s look at everything wicker. It’s a long story, but I’ll try to keep it short. You know what they say, ‘wicker takes time.’ So, let’s get started.

What is wicker

The Art of Wicker: A Look into the Natural Materials and Techniques Used in Creating Unique Pieces

Wicker is a construction technique that involves weaving natural materials together to create a strong and unique piece of furniture. The technique began in ancient Egypt, where pliable plant material was used to create baskets and other household items. Over time, the method passed through different eras and was discovered in various parts of the world. Today, wicker is commonly associated with vintage designs and is still utilized by certain companies to create expensive and unique products.

The Construction Method

The construction method for wicker involves weaving the natural materials together to create a solid and unique piece of furniture. The length and size of the strips used in the weaving process can differ according to the desired design and potential comfort level. The key to achieving a comfortable wicker piece is to maintain a slight give in the fiber, which allows for a more comfortable seating experience.

The Importance of the Wicker Technique

The wicker technique allows for the creation of unique and beautiful pieces of furniture that are both lightweight and strong. The ability to create furniture from natural materials also saves on production costs and allows for a more eco-friendly alternative to synthetic materials. Wicker is recognized as a great alternative to solid wood furniture and is equally as strong and durable.

Caring for Wicker Furniture

To maintain the integrity of wicker furniture, it is important to keep it away from water and to clean it regularly. The natural fibers used in wicker can break down over time if exposed to water, so it is important to keep it in a dry area. Cleaning wicker furniture is easy and can be achieved by using a soft brush and mild soap.

The Fascinating History of Wicker

Wicker is an ancient craft that dates back thousands of years. It was first discovered buried with pharaohs in ancient Egypt, where it was used to create baskets and furniture. The craft uses raw materials originally developed for basket weaving, such as reeds, stone, and earth.

Wicker Spreads Across the World

The popularity of wicker grew during the Roman era, as the Romans were inspired by Egyptian woven furniture and adopted wicker as their own technique. They spread the style across their empire, and wicker became a prominent form of traditional furniture in many parts of the world.

The Creation Process of Wicker

The process of creating wicker involves weaving raw materials together to create a variety of designs and products. Wicker can be made from a variety of materials, including rattan, which is highly abundant in western and northwestern parts of China. The drying and storage techniques used to create wicker differ depending on the material used and the control that the indigenous families have over the material.

The Influence of Wicker on Modern Design

Wicker has had a significant impact on modern design. The craft has influenced the creation of new furniture designs and has been used to create a variety of products that carry a traditional and unique look. The popularity of wicker has spread wider than ever before, and there are now many examples of wicker furniture and products available for purchase.

The Intricate Process of Manufacturing Wicker Furniture

  • Natural wicker is traditionally made from plant origin materials such as rattan, cane, willow, reed, and straw.
  • The process of making wicker furniture is a time-consuming and intricate one that requires expert craftsmanship.
  • The material is weaved tightly to create a piece that is both beautiful and comfortable.
  • The cores of the natural materials are used to fill and strengthen the piece, while different thicknesses of the materials are used to create a stiffer or more pliant weave.
  • Lloyd Loom, a patented process from the early 20th century, uses paper-wrapped wire to create a wicker-like material that is preferred by many for its strength and beauty.

Choosing the Best Wicker Furniture for You

  • When choosing wicker furniture, it is important to consider the intended use and location of the piece.
  • Natural wicker furniture is best suited for indoor use or in areas that are protected from the elements.
  • Synthetic wicker furniture is designed to withstand outdoor conditions and is a great choice for those looking for durable seating or stools.
  • The largest basket or vase may not always be the best choice, as smaller pieces can add a touch of elegance to any space.
  • Ultimately, the choice between natural and synthetic wicker furniture comes down to personal preference and the level of care and maintenance you are willing to provide.

The Various Materials Used in Wicker Furniture

  • Wicker furniture is traditionally made from natural materials such as rattan, willow, reed, and bamboo.
  • These materials are sturdy and give the furniture a unique and organic look.
  • The size and length of the materials used can differ, which affects the final product’s comfort level.
  • Rattan is a popular material used in wicker furniture construction, and it is lightweight compared to other natural materials.
  • Willow and reed are also commonly used and offer a lighter and more flexible option.
  • Bamboo is another popular material that is easy to find and maintain.

Synthetic Materials

  • Outdoor wicker furniture is usually produced from synthetic fibers like resin and vinyl, which offer a uniform and consistent aesthetic impression.
  • These materials are meant to withstand exposure to sunlight and other elements and maintain their quality over time.
  • Synthetic fibers are also lightweight and easy to build with, making them a popular choice for companies producing wicker furniture.
  • Compared to natural materials, synthetic fibers are a bit more brittle and tend to give a slight plastic feel to the furniture.

The Key Points to Note

  • The type of material used in wicker furniture is important in achieving the desired look and feel.
  • Natural materials offer a unique and antique aesthetic, while synthetic materials offer a more uniform and consistent look.
  • The method of weaving the materials together is also important in achieving the desired final product.
  • Wicker furniture made from natural materials tends to be more comfortable and offers a bit of flexibility, while synthetic materials are lightweight and easy to maintain.
  • It’s important to confirm whether the wicker furniture is meant for indoor or outdoor use, as this will determine the type of material used.
  • Direct exposure to sunlight can cause natural materials to dry out and become brittle over time, while synthetic materials are meant to withstand these elements.
  • Maintaining wicker furniture made from natural materials requires a bit more effort, while synthetic materials are easy to clean and maintain.

The Great Indoors vs. The Great Outdoors: Choosing the Right Wicker Furniture

Natural wicker is made from organic materials such as bamboo, rattan, and willow. It is commonly used for indoor furniture pieces such as chairs, tables, and baskets. Here are some things to consider when using natural wicker indoors:

  • Keep it dry: Natural wicker is not meant to be left outside or in damp areas. It can easily absorb moisture and become moldy or rot.
  • Prevent breaking: Avoid placing heavy objects on natural wicker furniture as it can easily break or warp.
  • Caring for natural wicker: Use a soft brush or vacuum to remove dust and debris. You can also wipe it down with a damp cloth and mild soap.

Outdoor Use: Synthetic Resin Wicker

Synthetic resin wicker is made from vinyl or resins and is preferred for outdoor use. It is designed to withstand harsh weather conditions and is commonly used for patio furniture. Here are some things to consider when using synthetic resin wicker outdoors:

  • Protected from the elements: Synthetic resin wicker is better suited for outdoor use as it is protected from the sun, wind, and rain.
  • Options: There are many types of synthetic resin wicker available, so you can choose the one that best suits your needs and style.
  • Caring for synthetic resin wicker: Use a soft brush or vacuum to remove dust and debris. You can also wipe it down with a damp cloth and mild soap.

Which is Better?

Both natural and synthetic wicker have their advantages and disadvantages. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing between the two:

  • Natural wicker is intended for indoor use or temporary outdoor use, while synthetic resin wicker is best suited for outdoor use.
  • Natural wicker is made from organic materials and has a more authentic look, while synthetic resin wicker can mimic the look of natural wicker but is not organic.
  • Natural wicker is more delicate and can break or warp easily, while synthetic resin wicker is more durable and can withstand harsh weather conditions.

In the end, it all comes down to personal preference and the intended use of the furniture. So whether you’re looking for a cozy indoor chair or a durable outdoor patio set, there’s a wicker option out there for you.

Keeping Your Wicker Furniture Clean and Protected

  • Vacuuming with a soft brush attachment is the best way to remove dust and dirt from wicker furniture.
  • For stains and spills, use a damp sponge with a mild solution of dish soap and warm water to gently scrub away the spot.
  • Rinse the area with clean water and let it dry completely before putting anything on it or covering it.

Routine Wicker Furniture Care

  • To prevent unsightly stains and smells, routinely scrub away any mildew using a mild oil-based soap, such as Murphy Oil soap, mixed with water.
  • After cleaning, make sure to let your wicker dry well before covering it to help prevent mildewing.
  • Inspect your wicker furniture regularly for any damage or loose fibers that could lead to eventual breakdown of the material.
  • Utilize the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning methods and settings for outdoor wicker furniture to extend its life.

Protecting Wicker Furniture from Weather

  • Keep wicker furniture protected from direct sunlight and harsh weather conditions to prevent damage to the material.
  • Cover outdoor wicker furniture with a tight-fitting, wide cover to keep it dry and protected from the elements.
  • Allow wicker furniture to completely dry before covering it to prevent mold and mildew from forming.
  • When storing wicker furniture for the winter, make sure it is completely dry and covered with a protective cover.

Preventing Mold and Mildew

  • To prevent mold and mildew from forming on wicker furniture, keep it in a dry and well-ventilated area.
  • If wicker furniture gets wet, make sure to dry it completely before putting anything on it or covering it.
  • Use organic and natural cleaning solutions to prevent the buildup of harmful chemicals that can lead to the breakdown of the material.
  • Elastic bands and crevices in wicker furniture can easily collect mold and mildew, so make sure to regularly inspect and clean these areas.

The Difference Between Rattan and Wicker

Rattan is a type of climbing palm that is found in tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and Australia. It is a strong and flexible material that has been used for thousands of years to create a variety of products. Wicker, on the other hand, is a technique of weaving natural materials together to create a particular structure. It is commonly associated with furniture and home design.

The Differences in Design and Range of Products

Rattan furniture is known for its vintage and tropical designs, while wicker furniture is commonly associated with more modern and sleek designs. Rattan furniture is generally heavier and more solid, while wicker furniture is lightweight and more flexible. Rattan furniture is commonly used for outdoor furniture, while wicker furniture is more commonly used for indoor furniture.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Rattan and Wicker Furniture

Rattan furniture is a great choice for outdoor furniture because it is strong and durable. It can withstand exposure to water and other elements without deteriorating. Wicker furniture, on the other hand, is ideal for indoor use because it is lightweight and easy to move around. However, it is not as strong as rattan furniture and may not be able to withstand exposure to water and other elements.

The Overall Importance of Knowing the Difference

Knowing the difference between rattan and wicker is important when choosing furniture for your home or outdoor space. It allows you to make an informed decision about which material is best suited for your particular needs. Whether you choose rattan or wicker, both materials are unique and create great products that can add a lot to the overall design of your home.


So, that’s wicker! It’s a great way to add some extra comfort to your home, and it’s not as difficult to care for as you might think. 

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.