Wicker? Rattan? Which type of furniture should you buy?

Wicker furniture is hot this year.

So is rattan furniture.

If you’re in the market for a tropically-inspired, light and airy, chair or sofa for you patio, sunroom or living room…

Which is the best option for you: wicker or rattan?

(Note: we act as affiliates for some of the products below.)

A wicker chair sold by IKEA

wicker chair 

 A wicker sofa sold on Amazon

 wicker sofa

And what about cane furniture?

Before we begin, a few definitions are in order…

What is Wicker?

How’s this for a surprise: wicker is not a type of wood.  Furthermore, it’s neither a natural or synthetic material.

Because wicker is not a material at all!

It’s a weave, a pattern, like so:

wicker weave pattern

Below are wicker baskets with a variety of wicker weaves:

wicker baskets

So what is wicker made of?

Wicker furniture, baskets and décor, can be constructed of any number of pliable natural and synthetic materials.

For example, among natural or organic materials, wicker products are often made of reed, seagrass, cane, bamboo, willow, rattan or any combination of the above.

Synthetic materials can also be used to create a wicker pattern.

For example, plastic, resin and vinyl are among the most commonly used synthetics.

Wicker weaving goes back thousands of years

Because of wicker’s strength, durability and light weight wicker was common in many ancient cultures such as Egypt, Persia, and the Roman Empire.

Archaeologists working in the tombs of the Egyptian pharaohs found wicker storage chests, baskets, and chairs.

Ancient Persian soldiers used wicker as shields.

An elaborately designed rattan armchair, circa 1897  

Antique wicker armchair



What is Rattan?

Rattan is a rainforest vine-like climbing plant related to palm trees.

There are about 600 species of rattan.

Most are found in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Australia.

Fact: Indonesia is the largest exporter of rattan.

Like most vines, rattan clings to tall trees in order to climb and reach the sunlight.

Fact: Rattan can grow to a length of 300 feet.

The rattan vine consists of a solid core and a tough outer skin.

The skin is peeled off revealing a solid pole-like structure that ranges in diameter from 1-3 inches.

To bend and shape the vine, it’s steamed until pliable so it can be easily shaped, and then dried to keep the desired shape.

wicker rattan 

Shaped rattan typically serves as the frame for rattan furniture.

Rattan sofa sold on Amazon

rattan sofa

What is Cane?

Cane has two definitions.

Definition 1: a walking stick.

Definition 2: the outer skin of the rattan vine.

You’ve probably seen cane chairs.

What cane refers to in this regard is the distinctive and quite strong webbing pattern you see on the back and seat of a cane chair.

cane webbing


Cane is also used as rope or lashing to attach parts of furniture to together.

A cane and rattan chair sold on Amazon


cane and rattan chair

Another cane and rattan chair sold on Amazon.

rattan and cane chair

The downside of rattan furniture

It’s not a great choice for outdoor furniture.


It absorbs moisture, which in turn makes the rattan soft which leads to warping (losing its shape), and the accumulation of mold and mildew.

It will also fade, dry out and crack if exposed to prolonged sunlight and hot weather.

So, if you intend to place your rattan furniture outside on your patio or deck…

Consider moving it indoors—into your garage or a waterproof basement—during the winter when it snows, or when it’s about to rain, or when morning dew is forecast.

In short, rattan and wicker furniture is best kept indoors.

Rattan and wicker chair sold on Amazon

wicker chair

However, there is a solution if you want to keep your rattan furniture outdoors year-round.

Synthetic rattan wicker furniture!

Outdoor synthetic rattan wicker patio set sold on Amazon

  wicker patio furniture


It’s often built by weaving plastic fibers on a treated iron or aluminum frame.

This makes it impervious to moisture (water resistant), while retaining lightweight, strength and durability.

In fact, if you see any outdoor rattan furniture being sold, it’s undoubtedly “PE Rattan.”

PE stands for Polyethylene (PE) resin.

And it’s made to look exactly like natural rattan.

And just like natural rattan, PE rattan can be stained and painted.

Plus, it’s just as comfortable to sit on as real rattan, won’t get damaged by the rain or sun, and it’s easy to clean and care for.

When needed, simply wash your resin wicker furniture with soapy water to remove any accumulated dust and dirt.

Sound good?

Comments? I’d love to hear ‘em below. 🙂

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