Can Wicker Baskets Be Outside?

wicker basket outside

On a sunny spring afternoon, you find yourself gathering supplies to spruce up your patio for the warmer months ahead. But when you go to retrieve the lightweight wicker baskets that have stored your patio cushion covers all winter long, you notice their faded, weathered appearance. “Can wicker baskets really withstand the outdoor elements?” you wonder.

Using wicker baskets outdoors seems ideal for tasks like lightly gardening, firewood storage, or displaying potted plants. However, there are valid concerns about the durability of these woven containers in rain, sun, wind, and temperature extremes. Opinions vary on whether natural or synthetic wicker materials fare better over the long haul.

In this article, we’ll explore the debate around using wicker baskets outside. From the advantages and limitations of different wicker types to essential care tips, you’ll learn how to maximize the lifespan of your baskets whether on the patio or porch. We’ll also address some alternatives if complete weather resistance is a priority. By understanding material properties and best maintenance practices, you can confidently incorporate wicker into your outdoor decor and storage solutions for years to come.

neglected wicker basket

Can Wicker Baskets Be Outside…At All?

The short answer is yes, wicker baskets can be used outdoors – with some caveats. There are a few key factors to consider regarding material type and intended use:

Natural vs. Synthetic Wicker

Natural wicker is made of untreated plant materials like bamboo, rattan, or willow. While giving baskets an earthy, organic aesthetic, natural fibers are porous and lack water resistance. Over time, they will degrade faster from moisture, sunshine, and weather extremes.

Synthetic wicker is woven from weather-resistant materials like PE (polyethylene) or UV-stabilized polyrattan. These man-made fibers withstand water, rot, and fading better than natural materials. Some types are virtually maintenance-free for outdoor display.

Intended Use

If baskets will be used for short-term, occasional outdoor tasks like gardening or picnics, natural wicker can work. However frequent exposure or permanent outdoor placement is not recommended without protective measures.

Baskets intended for long-term outdoor storage of items or decorative planters would be better suited to synthetic materials built to withstand the elements year-round. Harsh, unprotected climates may still degrade synthetics over many years of sun and rain damage.

In summary, wicker can withstand casual, occasional outdoor use with proper care. But only synthetic varieties are suitable for permanent, unprotected display in high-moisture or sun-exposed areas. The next sections will explore these material types in more detail.

Natural vs. Synthetic Wicker

Durability and Weather Resistance

Natural Wicker

As a woven plant fiber, natural wicker is beautiful but porous. Over time, moisture will cause it to expand and contract, leading to cracking and weakness. Prolonged exposure brings additional dangers:

Moisture – Excess rain or humidity allows mold and mildew to set in, shortening a basket’s lifetime.

Sunlight – UV rays cause natural materials to fade and become brittle. Unprotected rattan may only survive 2-3 years of full sun.

Temperature Extremes – Freezing temps can crack wicker, while heat speeds the rate of fading and breakdown.

Studies show that without treatments, natural wicker left outdoors can deteriorate within 1-2 years. Rot and mold growth may occur even faster in damp climates.

Synthetic Wicker

Synthetic materials like polyrattan overcome many natural wicker issues:

  • PE wicker is water-resistant, protecting against moisture damage indoors or out.
  • Fibers are UV-stabilized to prevent sun-fading and degradation for 5+ years of stunning appearance.
  • A temperature-resistant weave expands and contracts less with heat and cold.
  • Mildew-proof synthetic baskets require no seasonal storage.

While not indestructible, synthetics provide 3-5x the functional lifespan of untreated rattan when completely exposed to outdoor conditions.

Tips for Using Wicker Baskets Outdoors

To maximize any wicker basket’s time in the elements, consider these protective strategies:

wicker basket in snowy weather

Shelter from Direct Sun and Rain

For natural materials, providing overhead shelter is critical. Position near covered porches or roof overhangs to block at least 50% of sun/rain.

Synthetics also benefit, lasting 2-3x longer with partial versus full exposure. Rotate baskets every few months to evenly distribute wear.

Waterproof Covers

Use breathable covers made for outdoors whenever baskets aren’t in use. Remove covers during sunny, dry spells to allow respiration. This doubles a natural basket’s longevity.

Dry Storage in Winter

When temperatures dip, bring all wicker inside or store in a dry, covered space like a shed or garage. Avoid basements/attics prone to moisture extremes.

Gentle Cleaning and Protectants

Wipe down with a mild soap and water solution monthly. Avoid pressure washers. Reapply a UV protectant spray to synthetic baskets annually or as needed to prolong their life in the elements.

Remember to choose appropriate basket uses – those storingushions or other patio accents, holding gardening supplies, or displaying potted plants all thrive outdoors when cared for properly.

Alternatives for Outdoor Storage

alternative storage option

For storing items long-term in very harsh conditions, wicker may not be durable enough regardless of the material. Here are some alternative options to consider:

Weather-resistant plastic containers – Totes with locking lids in UV-stabilized polypropylene stand up well to sun, rain, and dust. Great for gardening tools or seasonal supplies.

Metal garden beds or planters – Sturdy steel designs planted with flowers or herbs survive decades outdoors. Higher investment than wicker.

Teak outdoor furniture – Benches and tables crafted from premium teak wood resist rot, stains, and weathering for 20+ years with minimal upkeep.

Concrete or terra cotta – Planters, birdbaths, and urns molded from these materials can endure a century outside when installed properly.

That said, wicker still has advantages over these alternatives when properly maintained – its natural appearance, breathability, and lightweight portability. With periodic protective measures, wicker baskets suit many mild outdoor decorative and storage applications perfectly well.

The right choice depends on your unique climate, budget, and intended long-term use. Proper care can maximize any material’s longevity for years of enjoyment.

FAQs

Q: Can wicker shrink or crack in cold weather?

A: Natural wicker is more susceptible to damage from freezing temperatures. Storing baskets indoors during winter or using synthetic materials helps prevent this.

Q: How do I clean mold off wicker?

A: Mix a solution of 1 cup bleach per gallon of water. Wipe down baskets and rinse thoroughly to remove any surface mold. Lightly sand rough areas as needed.

Q: Will wicker fade in the sun?

A: Natural materials like rattan will fade more quickly than synthetic wicker protected with UV inhibitors. Placing baskets in partial shade prolongs vibrant colors.

wicker basket patio

Conclusion

With the right choices and care, wicker baskets can enhance your outdoor spaces for seasons to come. As we discussed, synthetic varieties hold up best against sun, rain, and weather over the long run. Natural wicker may also work well for occasional use when properly stored during harsh conditions. A few simple protective measures—like covers, sheltering, and cleaning—can double the lifespan of any wicker.

Whether choosing synthetics for permanence or embracing natural wicker’s seasonal flair, the key is tailoring placement and maintenance to each material. Locate pieces strategically, clean them regularly, and use covers as needed. With the suitable variety and the right approach, wicker adds beauty while retaining sturdiness year after year. Now you have strategies to incorporate these versatile containers confidently into your outdoor storage and decor however you please. Your patio, garden, or porch will enjoy welcoming touches that last for sunny days ahead!