Why Does a Wicker Basket Smell Bad?

woman covering her nose

The familiar, yet unpleasant, musty odor emanating from your wicker basket isn’t just an unfortunate reality – it has identifiable causes. This article delves into the mystery of the “Wicker Basket Smell Bad” phenomenon, exploring the key culprits behind this unwelcome scent and equipping you with the knowledge to neutralize it and restore your basket’s freshness.

The Composition of Wicker

Wicker is made from plant fibers like rattan, willow, and seagrass. To make wicker, these fibers are peeled off the plants. This leaves the inside of the fibers hollow.

These hollow fibers soak up moisture from the air over time. Tiny living things like bacteria and mold love moisture. They grow inside the hollow fibers where it’s damp.

As these tiny living things eat and break down the plant material, they release chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). We can smell these chemicals even when there’s a very small amount. Our noses are really good at detecting smells.

Most VOCs have distinct odors. This is what causes the smell you sometimes notice from wicker baskets and furniture. The bacteria and mold-breaking things down inside the moist, hollow fibers are the main reason wicker can develop an odor.

The key is that wicker soaks up moisture, which allows bacteria and mold to thrive inside it. As they break down the plant material, they release smelly VOCs. In a nutshell – moisture + tiny living things = smell.

wicker basket with molds

Moisture is Key

Moisture allows the smelly microbes to thrive. The bacteria and mold need water to grow.

  • Location: Storing in damp basements or humid rooms lets more moisture get inside compared to dry indoor areas.
  • Use: Empty baskets left for long times take in humidity through the sides. Baskets used often stay drier.
  • Seasons: Spring and summer have higher humidity outside. This increases moisture absorption if baskets are also outside.
  • Cleaning: Untreated baskets that get wet during cleaning take more time to air dry fully, prolonging moisture exposure.

Anything keeping wicker damp for a long time feeds the bacteria and mold growth. This makes their smelly chemicals worse too. Storing in dry places and using/cleaning baskets helps prevent extra moisture from building up. Less moisture means fewer smelly microbes.

You may also like to read: What Causes the White Powder on My Wicker Basket?

essential oils for wicker baskets

Smell Substances Explained

The specific smelly VOCs depend on the tiny microbes present. Here are some common ones:

Acetic acid – Has a sour or vinegary smell. Made by bacteria breaking down plant fibers.

Butyric acid – Smells like vomit. Certain bacteria make it while eating fibers without oxygen.

Trimethylamine – Has a stinky fish smell. Formed when bacteria eat fats and proteins in materials.

Dimethyl sulfide – Smells rotten like cabbage or garlic. Made during the respiration of sulfur fungi and bacteria.

Our noses can detect these VOCs even in small amounts. That’s why musty wicker seems to have such a strong smell. The longer microbes multiply and produce VOCs, the worse the stench gets.

Methods for Reducing Wicker Basket Smells

1. Thorough Drying

Completely drying out any moisture trapped inside the wicker is essential. Allow baskets to fully air dry upside down in direct sunlight for several hours if wet. An additional option is drying baskets in a warm, low-humidity environment like an attic. Moisture fuels smelly microbes.

2. Ventilation

Proper air circulation and ventilation prevent moisture buildup. Don’t enclose or cover wicker items, instead store in an open area. Rotating storage locations also improves ventilation access. Good airflow starves smelly microbes of their moisture food source.

3. Odor-Absorbing Substances

Placing dried flowers, fragrant herbs like lavender, or charcoal blocks inside wicker traps malodors. Essential oils like eucalyptus or tea tree oil on cloth scraps also absorb smells. Refresh as needed when effectiveness diminishes.

Cleaning and Disinfecting wicker basket

4. Cleaning and Disinfecting

Regular dusting and light scrubbing with a mix of water and white vinegar or lemon juice removes surface dirt and kills microbes. For heavy buildup, try a dilute hydrogen peroxide solution. Rinse and fully dry after. This maintenance limits future smelly bacterial growth.

5. Commercial Odor Eliminators

Products designed specifically for absorbing odors can be highly effective for stubborn cases. Look for those containing charcoal, baking soda, or enzymatic drain cleaners safe for fabrics. Follow package directions for use.

6. Replace Rattan Splints/Wicker

As a last resort, cut out and replace any extremely rotten rattan strips allowing musty smells to permeate. Re-weaving preserves the basket while removing all smelly organic material for a long-term fix.

With some diligent care and moisture control, it’s possible to banish the typical unpleasant wicker basket funk. Regular cleaning, thorough drying, and the use of odor absorbers interrupt the malodor cycle at its source – hungry microbes thriving off trapped dampness. With these tactics, your woven baskets can remain decorative without the bad smells.

Also Read: Mold-Proof Your Wicker Baskets with These Simple Tips