I have to agree, natural wicker makes for some beautiful patio furniture. But it’s a fragile material that can easily be damaged by the elements such as rain and the suns UV rays. The good news is, you can protect it by treating it properly. This article will tell you everything you need to know about treating wicker furniture and keeping it in good condition for longer use.
Does Wicker Need Treatment for Outdoor Use?
Yes, natural wicker is quite a fragile material and it is not really designed for outdoor use. If the wicker strands get rained on, they’ll soak up the water and start growing mold. If you leave it outdoors without any treatment on it, it won’t last more than a few months before it starts to get covered in mold and mildew.
Treating it with a sealant, or painting it, adds a layer of moisture protection and stops that from happening. However, treating it doesn’t make it indestructible. Your wicker furniture will still get damaged by rain, as well as fluctuating temperatures and direct sunlight, so you need to reapply treatments regularly and take steps to protect it (more on this later).
If you don’t want to deal with regular maintenance, go for resin wicker instead. Resin wicker is a type of synthetic wicker made from a polymer material, usually polyethylene. Despite its name, resin wicker doesn’t contain any natural wicker materials, it’s a fully synthetic material that is designed to look like wicker. It’s become a popular choice in recent years because it’s far more durable for outdoor use. It’s also available in lots of different colors too.
How to Treat Wicker Furniture for Outdoor Use (Step-by-Step)
If you do decide to opt for natural wicker and you want to keep the natural look, you need to treat it to protect it against the elements. Follow these basic steps to seal it.
1. Clean the Wicker Furniture
Before you put your sealer on, you need to clean your wicker furniture properly. Start by taking a vacuum with a brush attachment to clean up any dust and loose dirt. You can use the bristles to get right into the gaps in the wicker.
Next, mix a few drops of dish soap into a bucket of warm water. Get a microfiber cloth and wipe the furniture down to remove any dirt and grime. Wring the cloth out properly so you don’t saturate the furniture too much.
If there are a lot of stubborn stains that you can’t get off with dish soap, try a homemade cleaner with ammonia and vinegar, or you can get a specially made cleaning spray made with natural oils.
You can always use Krud Kutter or a similar degreaser cleaner to remove grease and other dirt from the wicker furniture. I use Krud Cutter on many furniture restoration projects to clean it before sanding, staining, and even painting.
Once you have cleaned using your chosen cleaner, take a clean bucket of water and wipe it down to rinse it off. You want to make sure you remove the cleaner fully from the wicker furniture or your stain and/or sealer will not adhere correctly later on.
2. Let it Dry
It’s important that the furniture is completely dry before you put your first coat of sealer or stain on it. If it isn’t, the sealer will not adhere properly and the finish will be ruined.
Before you get started, check the weather and do it when you’ll have a few days of good sun. Leave the furniture in a dry place, either in your garage or even outdoors (in dry weather) for 48 hours to fully dry. Remember, the wicker will absorb moisture when you are cleaning it and you want it to be completely dried out before you start sealing. Locking moisture inside could cause problems with mildew later on.
3. Stain (optional)
You may want to stain the furniture before you seal it. Wicker furniture is quite porous, so it stains very well. It’s a great way to give added protection against rot and insects, and change the color of the wicker.
Once your furniture is dry, you can apply stain with a brush, starting from the top down. Make sure to work it right into all of the gaps, and clear up any drips right away. If you don’t take your time, you’ll get a patchy finish. After around 10 minutes, wipe away any excess that has not soaked into the wicker. Let it dry and then turn the furniture upside down to do the bottom.
When you are happy with the color and the coverage, give it 24 hours to dry before moving on to the next step. Or just wait until the next day, get one nights sleep is what I usually do.
4. Apply First Coat of Sealer
Now, it’s time to apply your first coat of sealer. Spar urethane sealers are the best choice as they give excellent protection against the elements and they’re very durable. You can use a spray-on clear coat for easier application. This Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane Aerosol Spray excellent. However, bear in mind that the coats will be quite thin and you’ll need to go over more times to get good coverage. Always move the spray can evenly to prevent drips, and ensure that you have covered every area properly.
Alternatively, you can use a brush to apply your sealer. This quart of Varathane Ultimate Spar Urethane is a great sealer that will apply more thick, which helps to protect your wicker furniture. It is an exterior clear coat that seals out water and protects against UV damage. This will help your furniture retain its color for longer, especially if you stain it too.
Applying the sealer with a brush, start from the top and work your way down. Don’t lay it on thick, just take small sections at a time and spread the sealer properly, so you have a nice thin coat. If you try to rush it and get a thick coat on, the finish won’t look right and you’ll ruin the natural aesthetic of the wicker. Push the brush into all of the small crevices, so there are no spots where water can get in. Pay particular attention to corners and seams.
When you are confident that the whole piece is covered, leave it to dry. It usually takes around 6 to 8 hours before it’s touch dry, but products vary, so check the tin for recommended drying times and cure times.
5. Apply More Coats of Sealer
Recoats are important for more durability to protect the wicker from the sun, water, and humidity. I recommend at least 2 coats of spar urethane. Each product has recommended re-coat times, typically you should re-coat spar urethane after 2 hours.
6. Let it Dry Properly Before Using
After the final oat is applied, you need to let the polyurethane dry properly before you start using it. It takes longer for the final coat to dry than it does between coats. Ideally, you should give it at least a few days before you start moving the furniture around and using it. However, polyurethane takes up to 30 days to fully cure, so if you can, leave it as long as possible before use.
Can You Paint Wicker Patio Furniture?
Yes, you can paint wicker furniture. painting wicker patio furniture is a great way to protect it and give it some color. People often go for resin wicker instead because they want more choice of color. But, if you already have some wicker furniture and you want a change, just paint it instead. However, you should still consider putting a clear sealer over the top for added protection too.
How to Properly Paint Wicker Patio Furniture for Outdoor Use
1. Deep Clean
First, give the furniture a deep clean. Follow the same steps outlined above – vacuum dust and loose dirt, clean with dish soap and water or a specialist cleaner, and then rinse with fresh water.
This is a vital step because dirt and grime will stop the paint from adhering properly and it will flake off.
2. Let it Dry
After cleaning, let the furniture fully dry before applying any primer or paint. Give it 48 hours in the sun so there is no excess moisture left in the wicker.
3. Prime it With an Exterior Primer
Priming your wicker before painting is essential. Wicker takes on a lot of moisture, so it will soak up paint easily. Priming beforehand stops it from absorbing as much, so you get a more even finish. Wicker can also be a tricky material to paint and the primer gives you a nice surface to work with.
Use a good quality exterior primer like Zinsser Bullseye 123 or BIN Shellac Primer. Each option is a multipurpose primer that’s very tough, goes on easily without sanding first, and resists mold and mildew. They give you a great protective layer under your paint and you’ll only need one coat. Apply it with a brush, working from the top down and getting into all of the gaps. It should be touch dry in just 30 minutes and ready to paint over in an hour.
You can spray it if you have the right sprayer equipment, bust brushing is my recommended way of application as you can use a cheap paintbrush.
4. Paint it With an Exterior Paint
When the primer is dry, you can paint with a good exterior wood paint. You can see the 10 best exterior wood paints here in this guide I wrote.
Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch is a great latex paint that is ideal for wicker furniture. Use a brush to apply the paint in thin layers. If you put it on too thick, it will stick in the gaps in big clumps and you’ll lose the look of the wicker weave. You should need two or three coats of paint for a good finish.
5. Apply a Sealer
Good exterior paint has additives to protect it from moisture and sunlight. However, applying a sealer over the top will give it an even tougher finish, so you don’t have to recoat as often. Adding a spar urethane sealer, following the same steps outlined above in step 4 under “treatment guide” will save you a lot of time in the future and make your furniture last much longer.
How to Care for Your Outdoor Wicker Furniture?
Treating your wicker furniture will protect it, to some extent. But natural wicker is not designed to be left outdoors permanently and even with paint or sealer, it’s still prone to damage. If you want to extend its lifespan, you need to keep up with regular care and maintenance.
Cleaning is important because dirt and grime will erode the finish on the furniture and damage the wicker strands underneath, making them prone to absorbing water. Brushing or vacuuming it every now and again stops dirt from building up. You should also wipe the furniture down with a damp cloth. Every few months, give it a thorough clean with dish soap and warm water, or a natural oil cleaner.
When you are not using it, put furniture covers over it. This will protect it from rain and UV rays. Choose well-fitted covers so there are no gaps to let moisture in. Polyester is the best material because it is very water-resistant and breathable. However, covers are not completely waterproof and they’re not a solution over the winter.
The wet weather over the winter, coupled with fluctuating temperatures, do a lot of damage to wicker furniture. Even if you cover them, they are likely to crack and split. So, when the summer is over, bring your furniture indoors and store it in a garage or shed, if possible.
Natural wicker is not designed to be used outdoors. If you leave it out without treating it, you’ll ruin it. So, make sure that you paint it or seal it with a clear coat like polyurethane. That said, this will only protect it in the summer. You should always store your wicker patio furniture over the winter to keep it from getting damaged.
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.