How to Tell the Difference Between Wicker and Cane

wicker and cane

When shopping for outdoor furniture, baskets, or home decor, you may encounter the terms “wicker” and “cane” used interchangeably. However, these natural materials have distinct qualities that impact the longevity and aesthetics of any purchase. Not understanding the core differences between wicker and cane can lead consumers to select products that don’t fully suit their needs.

A Common Source of Confusion

Wicker and cane are frequently mixed up due to their similar uses in various products. However, wicker and cane have distinct definitions relating to their composition and characteristics. Learning to distinguish between wicker and cane allows you to select the material best suited to your needs and preferences.

What is Wicker?

wicker weave

Wicker refers to a weaving technique that uses pliable plant materials like rattan, willow, and bamboo to create a light, flexible texture. While rattan is commonly used, wicker itself simply describes the way these materials are woven. Synthetic fibers can also be interwoven to create wicker designs and patterns.

What is Cane?

cane vines

Cane specifically refers to strips cut from the rattan vine. Rattan cane is smooth, thin, and extremely flexible. It is one of the materials that can be used for wicker weaving, but is a distinct plant-based raw material on its own as well.

Key Differences between Wicker and Cane

MaterialUses various natural (rattan, willow, bamboo) or synthetic fibers in its construction. Material selection impacts properties.Exclusively made from stripped rattan vines, which are smooth, thin, and extremely flexible.
AppearanceCan have diverse textures depending on the weaving materials and patterns used. Varied appearance.Uniform, smooth texture due to consistent material. Strips lay flat with similar dimensions.
DurabilityLifespan depends on materials – rattan and synthetic are durable, willow less so. Proper sealing extends longevity.Exceptionally durable and long-lasting due to rattan’s strength and rot resistance. Will last decades with care.
MaintenanceRequirements depend on materials. Rattan has similar care to a cane. Willow needs protection from the elements.Low maintenance – wipe clean, and reseal periodically for outdoor items. Natural oils resist damage.
FlexibilityWeaves allow for intricate patterns depending on material flexibility.Very flexible material that retains shape when woven tightly.
SustainabilityRattan, willow, and bamboo are renewable resources. Synthetics are dependent on production methods.Fast-growing rattan vines are very sustainable to harvest when properly rotated.
care backrest bar stool

Additional Details to Consider

Materials: While rattan cane is very durable, other materials used for wicker like willow may not last as long.

Appearance: Cane items have a uniform texture while wicker can include varied patterns.

Weaving: The cane is flexible enough for intricate weaving patterns, resulting in highly detailed wickerwork.

Environment: Both wicker and cane are sustainable materials that require fewer resources than other furniture options.

Care: Wipe clean wicker and cane with a dry cloth. Consider applying a sealant to protect the exterior wicker from weathering.

Cost: Cane pieces may cost more initially but will last longer than lower-cost wicker made of rush or other substitutes.

Examples of Wicker vs. Cane Applications

To further illustrate the distinct uses of wicker and cane, here are some common examples for each:

wicker furniture

Wicker Furniture

Wicker is a very popular material for patio and outdoor furniture due to its lightweight and breathable qualities. Some classic wicker furniture options include:

  • Wicker dining chairs – With rounded or square frames, these come in a variety of colorful woven patterns.
  • Wicker loveseats and sofas – Great for porches and gardens, many feature removable cushions.
  • Wicker rocking chairs – A timeless option for relaxation; older styles have cane seats.
  • Wicker side tables – Versatile side or occasional tables with cutout geometric designs.

Wicker Baskets

From large storage pieces to petite accents, baskets add functionality and visual appeal to any space. Common wicker basket types are:

  • Laundry baskets – Durable and spacious for towels, sheets, and more.
  • Picnic baskets – Keep food and belongings organized on outdoor excursions.
  • Artificial flower baskets – Display silk bouquets on tables or mantels year-round.
  • Trash cans – Decorative designs keep unsightly bags hidden outdoors or in the kitchen.

Cane Accents and Furniture

cane furniture

While often used as a component of woven wicker, cane also has standalone uses:

  • Chair seats – Classic Windsor and dining chair seats are woven cane.
  • Screens and panels – Crisp floor-to-ceiling living room partitions or room dividers.
  • Picture frames – Delicate canework accents gifting displays or mantle decor.
  • Vases – Linear cane uprights hold floral arrangements or branches artistically.

Maintenance Tips for Wicker and Cane Furnishings

With proper care, wicker and cane furnishings can last for many years. Here are some suggestions for keeping these items looking their best:


  • For light dirt, wipe wicker or cane surfaces with a dry or damp cloth.
  • Use a soft brush to remove dust from crevices in woven designs.
  • Make a solution of water and mild soap or cleaner for tougher cleaning.
  • Rinse thoroughly and allow to air dry completely.


  • Reapply a protective sealant every 6-12 months to shield the wicker against weathering and UV rays.
  • Choose a sealant for indoor or outdoor use as needed. Water-based formulas are safer.
  • Seal the undersides of chairs, tables, and baskets for full protection.


  • Trim away split or broken cane strips with pruning shears or wire cutters.
  • Replace full cane spots by weaving in a new strip on the underside.
  • Spot repair worn wicker by weaving in a new piece of rattan or other flexible material.
  • Consider professional reweaving for substantial damage or loosening.

By following these simple care steps, wicker and cane furnishings will retain their natural charm for relaxing outdoors or decorating your home for many seasons to come.

Environmental Impact

Both wicker and cane are renewable, sustainable resources that can be harvested without depletion. Rattan and other flexible vines and grasses used for wicker grow back quickly, requiring less intensive agricultural processes than wood or other materials. Their production also leaves a lighter carbon footprint than plastic alternatives.

sustainable rattan farming

Choosing the Right Material for Your Needs

By now, the key differences between wicker and cane should be clear. Wicker refers to the flexible weaving process that can utilize various natural or synthetic fibers in its construction. This results in products with a wide range of textures, durability levels, and aesthetic styles.

Cane, on the other hand, describes the smooth, resilient rattan strips harvested from the vine. Furnishings and accents made primarily from cane will have a uniform appearance and are often hardwearing enough for high-traffic indoor or outdoor use.

When shopping for new pieces, it is important to understand whether the item is crafted from wicker, cane, or a hybrid combination. This allows you to select options suited to the look you desire as well as their intended function and placement. Will the item be used inside or subjected to weather? How much wear and tear will it endure?

With a clear comprehension of material properties, along with following the proper care practices outlined here, both wicker and cane selections can be enjoyed for many seasons to come. Choosing quality items made from durable wicker materials or premium rattan cane ensures stylish and dependable furnishings for years of relaxed outdoor living or interior decoration.