There is a lot of confusion regarding the terms Wicker vs Rattan in furniture production. Often, it’s the incorrect use of terminology that causes this confusion to happen. So let’s clear up easily what the difference between wicker and rattan furniture really is.
Wicker vs Rattan
Quite simply, “wicker” refers to a type of weave pattern used to create furniture and other items from various materials.
“Rattan”, on the other hand, is simply the name of a specific material that often gets used in creating such items.
When shopping for furniture, you’ll often see the two terms used interchangeably since wicker furniture was traditionally made from rattan. Nowadays, however, the vast majority of wicker furniture on the market is made from synthetic materials, which are often mislabeled as rattan.
What is Wicker?
Wicker is a weaving technique used to construct a wide variety of useful items such as baskets, chairs, and other furniture items. It goes back thousands of years and was common in many ancient cultures such as Egypt, Persia, and the Roman Empire.
In modern times, wicker is used in lots of arts and crafts. The typical picnic or country-style basket employs a wicker technique.
Traditional materials for wicker woven items include rattan, bamboo, willow, and reed. These days, synthetic fibers are more common when the wicker is used for outdoor furniture due to their durability and ability to withstand changes in moisture.
Wicker items are lightweight, attractive, and can be comfortable if well-made. Currently, wicker outdoor furniture is one of the most popular styles.
What is Rattan?
Rattan is the name given to a type of vine-like climbing plant related to palm trees. There are actually around 600 species of rattan native to Asia, Africa, and Australia. The vast majority of rattan is currently grown in Southeast Asia, with Indonesia specifically as the largest producer of this forest product.
Rattan is a bit of a parasite in the rain forests where it is found. Like other vines, it attaches itself to large trees in order to grow upwards to reach the sunlight. Rattan specimens have been known to grow up to 100 meters long.
The rattan vine consists of a solid core and a tough outer skin. The skin is peeled off and used for making woven items, while the sturdy core traditionally has many uses in furniture making, musical instruments, weaponry, and even home construction for native peoples.
Is Wicker or Rattan Good for Outdoor Furniture?
Lots of wicker outdoor furniture is sold these days, and the vast majority of it is woven from synthetic fibers.
Traditional wicker natural materials such as rattan, willow, and reeds are not very good choices for outdoor furniture due to how easily they can get damaged by moisture. After getting wet, these natural fibers turn soft and thus, the shape of the furniture piece can warp easily.
Moreover, collected moisture makes them a prime target for mold and mildew growth.
For this reason, any real rattan furniture that you can buy—that is wicker furniture woven from the actual rattan plant—should be used as indoor furniture.
PE Rattan and Resin Wicker
Synthetic wicker, on the other hand, is very well-suited to outdoor use. It is most often constructed by weaving plastic fibers on a treated iron or aluminum frame, making it completely safe to get wet, while also retaining the advantages of strength and lightweight construction.
If you see any patio furniture items labelled as “rattan”, they will almost always actually be made from “PE Rattan”, which is a Polyethylene (PE) resin made to look similar to natural rattan.
PE rattan or synthetic resin wicker furniture is excellent for the outdoors because it is lightweight, comfortable, and doesn’t get damaged by the rain or sun. It’s easy to care for. Simply wash your resin wicker furniture occasionally with soapy water to remove any dust and dirt.
You’ll most often find resin wicker furniture comes with all-weather cushions to make the seats more comfy, and tempered glass used for tabletop surfaces since a wicker weave is not perfectly flat by design.
One advantage of wicker patio furniture is that it is generally far cheaper to buy than furniture made from teak, eucalyptus, or other woods.