What Is Wicker?

Wicker sofa and chairs on luxury patio
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When faced with buying outdoor furniture, many readers won't know what wicker is.

It surprises many of them to know that wicker is the name of a weaving process, and not the name of any single material. Wicker furniture is not confined to natural materials but can be made from any natural or man-made material that is pliable and durable enough to be woven into furniture.

Simply put, the term "wicker" actually refers to a variety of vines, grasses, and plants that are used for weaving into furniture.

Another thing to remember is that wicker is not just confined to outdoor use, as it can easily be used indoors or outdoors. However, there are some differences in the material that is used in its manufacture depending on where it is going to be placed.

The Difference Between Indoor and Outdoor Use

Many outdoor furniture manufacturers commonly use synthetic vinyl and resins for outdoor furniture as the demands that are placed on it are tougher.  It needs to withstand the elements such as moisture, the sun and extreme dryness depending on the climate. Organic and natural materials are more commonly used for indoor furniture, as it is placed in a more protected environment.​

The Weaving Process

When it comes to how wicker furniture is put together, a similar weaving process is used for both organic and synthetic materials. This ends up with giving both types of materials the same wicker look that is so appealing.

You can find a great variety of styles and weaves, so you can find wicker furniture that is very modern as well as more traditional pieces. Wicker can also be found in many different colors as along with more natural or white finishes, you can find wicker furniture in a variety of hues.

Material Used in Wicker

There is a lot of variety in the type of material used in making wicker furniture.

There are four major types of organic materials used for indoor wicker furniture: rattan, reed, willow, and bamboo, with rattan being the most popular for indoor use. Rattan, which is the thin, pliable stem of a palm, has many uses in furniture making as it is also often used in making the frames around which wicker is woven.

Furniture made from these organic materials should not be used outdoors, as moisture and excessive sunlight can cause deterioration in these materials. This will render the furniture useless in very little time as the materials dry out or fray.

Unlike indoor wicker furniture, you will find that outdoor wicker furniture usually has aluminum frames. Synthetic or man-made fibers are used for weaving this furniture. The aluminum and the synthetic vinyl and resins keep the wicker look, but are much more hardy and will last longer outdoors despite sunlight and moisture.

Caring for Wicker Furniture

But, even so care should be taken to keep the outdoor furniture dry as moisture can easily lead to mildew. Wipe down the furniture after rainfall, or if it gets wet for any other reason. You might also want to keep it away from too much sun exposure as that can sometimes cause splintering in certain types of wicker.

A large umbrella can help, or placing the furniture in a protected location can help it retain its looks.

Care should be taken to keep it clean, and touch ups from time to time can keep it looking fresh for years.