How to clean rattan furniture

As a woven material, cane or plastic rattan makes beautiful furniture; keep it that way by learning how to safely clean it.

A woman cleaning a polyrattan garden armchair on a patio with STIHL RE 130 Plus high-pressure cleaner

How to clean and maintain natural rattan furniture

It's essential to clean your rattan outdoor furniture at the start of the gardening season. Like so many things, it can only look its best with proper maintenance. Never forget that untreated rattan, in particular, does need to be handled with care. That means that not only should you clean your rattan furniture, but also maintain it regularly by sparingly applying a homemade emulsion of water, linseed oil and a splash of turpentine. This helps keep the cane flexible and protected, and also adds a lovely shine.

Wicker is a type of rattan too, and also popular for balcony and outdoor furniture. If you have any painted wicker furniture, be sure to check the paint regularly and repair any chips you come across. If it’s all intact, you can simply polish the furniture with a soft cloth after cleaning. You do not need to do much more to maintain painted rattan furniture.

A rattan chair lying on its back, being cleaned with a STIHL RE 130 Plus high-pressure cleaner

Cleaning rattan furniture with a pressure washer

The woven structure of the material makes rattan furniture rather difficult to clean by hand, as dirt often settles between the fibres. A pressure washer is the answer to getting it properly clean in every corner, but it must be used with caution. As a delicate natural material, you should not direct a harsh jet straight onto your rattan and woven furniture.

Committed to your safety: protective equipment

Working with powerful tools is fun and means you can learn new skills, which is great as long as you are relying on effective and safe protective clothing while using them. Always wear your personal protective equipment when working with high-pressure cleaners. This includes safety glasses, ear protection and more. Please see the operating instructions for your product for further details. Before you use your power tool for the first time, you should familiarise yourself thoroughly with the tool and ensure it is in flawless condition before each use. On request, your STIHL dealer will be happy to prepare your tool for its first use, and will also advise you on models and sizes of protective clothing that you can try at your leisure. Please remember that personal protective equipment is no substitute for safe working techniques.

A woman wearing safety glasses holds up the handle of a STIHL RE 130 Plus high-pressure cleaner

Whether it is painted or has a natural finish, to clean your rattan furniture with a STIHL high-pressure cleaner you should first use the foam nozzle to get into all the tightest areas. Next, use the wash brush attachment to clean the surface, and finally the fan jet nozzle to rinse off your rattan furniture. Be sure to keep the pressure at a low setting. CU 100 universal cleaner boosts the cleaning power of your high-pressure cleaner and is ideal for your rattan furniture thanks to its neutral pH. Always work carefully, and after cleaning leave the furniture to dry completely.

Close-up of a cane garden chair being sanded

How to clean polyrattan garden furniture

Rattan is a completely natural product, whereas polyrattan achieves a similar look with a plastic-based material. This also means that polyrattan furniture is significantly less fragile than natural rattan, so you can use a higher setting on your high-pressure cleaner. CU 100 universal cleaner works well for cleaning polyrattan too.

When should I clean my rattan furniture?

We recommend at least three times a year. The first time you clean it should be before the gardening season starts, then again in the middle of the summer, and it needs a final clean before you put it into storage. In any case, always make sure you only clean your rattan furniture when night-time temperatures are above freezing, and that your rattan furniture can dry out completely after cleaning. The formation of ice crystals in damp furniture will damage natural rattan and even polyrattan in the long run.

How to store rattan furniture after cleaning

Your woven rattan furniture should not be left in the garden unprotected over winter; otherwise, you risk discolouration, cracking and brittleness, even in polyrattan furniture. It’s best to clean rattan garden furniture at the end of the gardening season, let it dry completely, then put it away in a dry location.

Summary: how to clean rattan furniture

  • Rattan furniture can be cleaned using household products or a pressure washer.

  • You should take care when cleaning rattan furniture, especially if using a pressure washer.

  • You should only clean rattan furniture when the temperatures remain above freezing at night.

  • It's best to clean your furniture at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the gardening season, focusing only on light maintenance in between those times.

  • You should store your rattan furniture somewhere dry after the final cleaning of the season.