What is rattan?
Lightweight and durable, rattan is one of the strongest types of wood making it a popular choice for garden furniture. It’s a species of palm found in Asia, Africa and Australia and is eco-friendly because the plants are fast growing and plentiful. Rattan needs regular cleaning and care. The good news is that it’s easy to clean and if done correctly, it will last for many years.
Cleaning rattan garden furniture
If left outside, your furniture is likely to collect dust and debris in crevices and between the weaves. This needs to be removed on a regular basis. Not only does it look unsightly, but can cause mildew. A quick and easy way to remove loose dust and dirt is with a small brush attachment on a vacuum cleaner or a brush with non-abrasive bristles, such as a toothbrush. Once the debris is removed, clean your furniture with warm water and mild washing up detergent. It’s important not to over-wet the rattan, so only wet your cloth with the bubbles. Finish off by wiping the furniture with a slightly damp, clean cloth and be sure to leave your furniture to dry before using it again.
How often to clean your rattan furniture
To keep your garden furniture in tip-top shape, vacuum or dust it every week and clean it every month. However, if you use it a lot or the weather is bad, you may need to clean more often.
Removing stains from rattan
If you spill something on the wood, take care of it as soon as possible to avoid the liquid staining the furniture. If you notice stains or mildew, scrub the furniture with a solution of bleach and water, but be careful not to damage the weave. If that doesn’t work, dip a Q-tip in bleach and apply directly to the stains.
Repairing rattan furniture
Extreme heat and direct sunlight can cause cracks and splits. If this happens, try using boiled linseed oil to repair it. The oil will not fill in the cracks and splits, but it will moisten the rattan causing it to expand and make the damage less noticeable. Linseed oil is highly flammable, so always buy boiled linseed oil from a DIY store. Apply a thin layer to the furniture and let it dry. Re-apply more layers, buff with a cloth and let it dry in between. You will have applied enough when you notice the oil is not sinking in as well. Sitting on rattan chairs before they are fully dry can cause the seats to sag. If the weaving looks a little loose gently put it back in place with your fingers.
Protecting rattan furniture from the outdoor elements
One of the best ways to protect your furniture from the weather is to apply a protective finish. Use a sealant, shellac or lacquer and apply with either a paintbrush or a sprayer. Always leave the furniture to dry for several days before using it again. If your furniture feels a little dry, moisten it by applying lemon oil with a cloth.
Store rattan when not in use
Rattan garden furniture is often kept outside all year round, but continuous exposure to strong sunlight, rain, or fluctuating temperatures can cause damage. The best way to avoid this happening is to keep it in a shaded area, store it under UV-proof furniture covers or bring indoors when not in use. Another option is to buy synthetic rather than natural rattan furniture. Synthetic rattan is more durable and able to withstand the elements.