Tips For Cleaning Antique Wicker

Antique and vintage wicker furniture has made a big come back on the home decor scene, so learn how to clean and maintain it so it will look great for years to come.

Vintage and antique wicker is enjoying quite a renaissance in contemporary interior design. While you can strip and recover the cushions, or even put some old slipcovers in the wash, how do you get 50 years of dust off of a wicker piece without causing any damage?

First, check over your piece for splits and breaks in the wicker itself. Wicker is a flexible wood but requires a certain amount of moisture to stay vibrant. If the wood is splitting and cracking in a lot of places, perhaps this isn't a good choice for a piece of furniture to purchase or restore. Once the wicker is completely dried out, it will break down rapidly.

While the wood does need moisture to survive, you do not want to hose it down or otherwise waterlog it! Wicker that absorbs too much moisture will warp, causing your chair, basket or table to lose its proper shape. If a chair becomes warped and lists to one side, as it is used, one area will wind up getting more wear than another, and this will also cause your piece to break down rapidly.

Start the cleaning process by removing as much surface dirt as possible using a dry method, such as a soft cloth, or one of the disposable dusting cloths that are so popular now. Your goal is to lift the dirt and remove it, not to grind it in or spread it around, so as your cloth gets dirty, get rid of it, and choose a fresh one. You may go through a lot of cloths, but you are getting to the bottom of the problem very quickly.

Next, try loosening embedded dirt where the strands of wicker intersect by going over the dirt with an old soft toothbrush. As the dirt loosens ups, go over it again with that soft cloth, and remove it so it doesn't go back from whence it came. If the item is painted, and paint starts to flake off, it may be best to go over the whole piece now and then repaint it. While collectors prize original paint in many items, if it is flaking all over your guests whenever they sit down, a complete restoration may be in order.

If your wicker piece is very dusty, consider using a small handheld vacuum to remove the loose dirt. If all you have available is a large vacuum, try reducing the suction by putting a layer or two of old pantyhose over the open edge of the hose. This will give you enough pressure to remove the dust, but won't be so much as to break off pieces of the wood.

When you have gotten as much surface dirt as possible off of your piece, you may be satisfied with how it looks, or you may want to go on to washing it with soap and water. Choose a mild soap made for wood or wood floors, and mix it up with lukewarm water. Sponge your wicker item with the water and soap solution, but remember not to let the wood get too wet. Tip it on its side or at an angle to let any gathered pools of soap and water run off. Go over it again with a sponge and plain water, to make sure there is no soap residue left behind, because soap residue can leave a sticky feeling behind.

Make sure your wicker items are completely dry before you attempt to use them. This can take 24-48 hours or even more in a humid environment. If you sit in a damp chair, you run the risk of causing it to warp, same problem if you put a heavy glass tabletop on a damp wicker table. If you have a small area that seems like it refuses to get dry, you can help it along by using a hair dryer on a warm (NOT hot) setting.

Once your wicker is looking like new, regular vacuuming or cleaning with a soft cloth will be all the care it needs on a regular basis. Save the washing process for every year or two, provided you clean up any wet spills it received as soon as they happen.

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