What is the difference between synthetic wicker and natural wicker?

Wicker is widely used to make patio furniture, baskets, and home decor. Natural wicker and synthetic wicker are made from different materials. We will cover the difference between the two and how to properly care for each.

Wicker chair

The Difference Between Synthetic Wicker and Natural Wicker

Wicker is a weaving technique used to make baskets and furniture. Natural wicker is made from organic material while synthetic wicker is made from resin to look and feel more like plastic.

Wicker can be traced back to Egypt where natural materials were woven to create baskets. The name wicker comes from the Scandinavian word “wika” and it means to bend.

Let’s better understand the different wicker materials.

Synthetic Wicker

Synthetic wicker is best used outdoors. It is widely used to make patio furniture because it is durable. The process of making the synthetic wicker creates a resin that hardens from plant materials.

There are a few different types of synthetic wicker including:

  • PVC
  • Nylon
  • Polyethylene (PE)
  • High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

PVC is considered the lowest quality product while HDPE is the highest. The PVC product is made with a few layers. The layers cause the product to peel after a few years of use. The HDPE products are made with one solid material and do not peel creating a more durable product.

HDPE products have UV inhibitors, are stain-resistant, and have a matte finish. It is easy to spot cheaper synthetic material because it is shiny.

Natural Wicker

Natural wicker is made from organic products. It is not a product that can withstand the elements and should be used indoors.

Natural wicker can be made from products like:

  • Rattan
  • Willow
  • Seagrass
  • Raffia
  • Bamboo

The organic material becomes dry and cracked when exposed to the elements. Weather-resistant coatings are available but should be reapplied often.

Because it is an organic material, natural wicker is susceptible to bugs.

How to Tell The Difference

Organic material will feel more like wood while synthetic wicker will have a noticeable plastic feel. The difference between synthetic and organic material is not highly visible but noticeable by touch.

When differentiating between high quality versus low-quality synthetic material it is better to look for a matte product.

How to Care For Wicker

All furniture needs a good cleaning to keep it looking its best.

How to clean wicker

Natural wicker should be dusted or vacuumed regularly. If you want to give your natural wicker a deep clean, wipe the piece down with a soft damp cloth and a mix of soap and water. Let the piece dry out in the sun.

Use a can of compressed air for difficult-to-reach sections of the furniture.

Natural material should be dried out completely before being stored.

Synthetic material can be washed in the same way with a soft cloth and a mix of soap and water. Durable synthetic material can be rinsed with the hose. Outdoor furniture cleaners are also available.

Outdoor patio furniture should be kept under a cover during the off-season to keep it looking its best.

What is the difference between Rattan and Wicker?

Rattan is used interchangeably with the word wicker. The difference between the two is wicker is the style of weaving and rattan is the natural material commonly used to create wicker products.

Wicker can be made from rattan but as mentioned above it can also be made from several other natural materials or a synthetic resin.

Rattan is a climbing palm. When the palm is dried the outer bark is very easy to bend and use for weaving. Rattan is similar to bamboo. It is commonly found in Australia, Asia, and Africa.

Can You Leave Wicker Outdoors?

Natural wicker can only be left outdoors for a short period of time. The natural wicker dries easily in the sun and will start to crack and unwind itself. Natural wicker is organic plant material and is not made to be damp for long periods of time. The material can be susceptible to bugs or rotting if it is left damp.

Natural wicker does better when it is protected with a spray. A protective spray should be reapplied, and it is still not advised to be left outside for long periods.

Synthetic wicker was made as a durable product to be used outdoors.

Synthetic material is made to act like plastic and can withstand elements including rain, sun, and wind. It is still a good idea to cover your furniture when not in used to keep the product looking its best.

Can You Waterproof Wicker?

You can waterproof natural wicker furniture with marine varnish. The varnish should be reapplied every two years.

A few other options for protection include using oil. The oil will help protect the furniture but should be reapplied every few months when the furniture is dry.

Synthetic materials are made to be waterproof. Keep them covered during the off-season to keep the protective layer intact.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Difference Between Synthetic Wicker and Natural Wicker

What is Synthetic Wicker Furniture Made From?

Synthetic resin wicker is made from resin that is extracted from plant material. The liquid that is harvested from the plant hardens like plastic. HDPE products which are considered the highest quality wicker products are all made from recycled material.

How Can You Tell If It’s Natural Wicker?

To tell the difference between natural and synthetic wicker you simply have to feel it. Natural wicker will feel like wood and will not be matte or shiny unless it is painted or covered with a coating. Synthetic wicker even at its highest quality will feel like a plastic material.

How Long Does Synthetic Wicker Last?

Synthetic wicker can last an average of 10 to 15 years if it is properly cared for. Different synthetic materials will be more durable than others. PVC will start to crack and peel before the 10-year mark while the HDPE material with its UV protection will stay intact.

What Wicker is Best For Outdoor Furniture?

Synthetic wicker is best for outdoor use. The synthetic material was made to be more durable than natural products. Synthetic wicker is made to be waterproof, it includes UV protection, and does not mild when wet.

How Does The Sun Affect Natural Wicker?

Natural wicker will dry and crack in the sun. Like all wood products, the sun will remove the moisture in the material. If the natural wicker is oiled or painted with varnish it will last longer when exposed.


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