What You Should Know Before Buying Wicker Furniture

Weaving Process, Materials, and Indoor vs. Outdoor Use

Wicker sofa and chairs on luxury patio
Robert Daly / Getty Images

During the process of buying furniture, there are several different materials and styles to consider that have a variety of purposes in the home. When it comes to outdoor furniture, a popular choice is wicker, and if you're wondering what is wicker made of, you'll be surprised by the answer.

What Is Wicker?

The term "wicker" refers to a style of weaving used in making furniture—in fact, the method of furniture-making was found in ancient Egyptian tombs. Natural wicker is made from a variety of vines, grasses, and plants. Wicker furniture is sometimes referred to as rattan furniture, but wicker and rattan are not the same things technically. The rattan plant is a commonly used material for wicker furniture.

It's common for wicker to be confused for a material or believed to be a type of wood when it is really the term for a weaving process. That means wicker furniture is not confined to being made from only natural materials. Wicker can be made from any natural or man-made material that is pliable and durable enough to be woven into furniture.

Wicker can be used for outdoor and indoor furniture, as seating, tables, storage shelves, plant stands, and more. Outdoor areas and coastal-style homes are popular settings for wicker furniture. However, there are some differences in the manufacturing material that is used depending on where a specific piece of furniture is designed to be placed.

The Difference Between Indoor and Outdoor Use

Many furniture manufacturers commonly use synthetic vinyl and resins as materials for outdoor wicker furniture rather than organic materials preferred for indoor wicker pieces. Because pieces placed outside need to withstand moisture, sunlight, and dry conditions for use in various climates, synthetic options help prevent wicker furniture from breaking down over time. Organic and natural materials are better suited for indoor use and in more protected environments.

The Weaving Process

While the materials used for construction may vary, a similar weaving process is utilized to create wicker furniture of both organic and synthetic types. The material used for weaving wicker is run horizontally in an over-under pattern between vertical strands to achieve a uniform, sturdy piece. The same process is used for making indoor or outdoor wicker furniture.

There are also many styles and weaves to choose from. When browsing wicker furniture for your home, you'll find modern and traditional options to suit your decor that ranges from pieces with straight, even lines to designs with more curves and unique details. Wicker can also be found in many different colors along with natural or white finishes.

Materials Used in Wicker

Synthetic vinyl and resins create a consistent aesthetic appearance on outdoor wicker furniture. These man-made materials, especially when paired with aluminum frames, create more durable furnishings for outdoor use, especially when exposed to sunlight and moisture.

Furniture made from organic materials should not be used outdoors, as moisture and excessive sunlight can cause deterioration over time. Natural options are more likely to dry out and fray when exposed to the elements.

If you've ever wondered how to tell if a piece of wicker furniture is real, you're likely questioning if the wicker is woven of natural materials. There are four major types of organic materials used for indoor wicker furniture:


Rattan is the most popular for indoor use. This material is made from the thin, pliable stem of a palm, which is easy to bend into various shapes—often after a steaming process—but sturdy enough for use in furniture. Along with making the exterior surfaces of wicker furniture, rattan is also commonly used to build the frames around which the weave is created.


Bamboo is less flexible than rattan, but this material can be a great option for unique looks and hardy frames.


Reed is derived from the inner pith of rattan, and it maintains the stem's sturdy construction but with a lighter color. Reed was a favored material for antique wicker furniture.


Willow is commonly used to construct woven wicker baskets and other light-duty furniture and decor that aren't required to hold as much weight as rattan.

Caring for Wicker Furniture

If you want maintenance-free furniture, you might want to pass on choosing wicker. Even if your wicker furniture is designed to stay outside, it requires care to stay in good condition. Moisture can lead to mildew when trapped inside tight weaves. Wipe down your furniture after rainfall or dewy weather to keep it as dry as possible.

The sun may also play a part in deterioration, so it's best to place your outdoor wicker furniture in an area that doesn't receive direct sunlight for most of the day. Overexposure to the sun may lead to splintering in certain types of wicker. A large umbrella can help protect your furniture to maintain its look and quality.

Take care to keep wicker furniture clean. Touch-ups from time to time with a freshening coat of paint or replacing broken strands can keep it looking beautiful for years.