How Moisture Impacts Wicker Material: Exploring Its Effects

dehumidifiers, ventilation, and airflow to control indoor or outdoor humidity levels wicker furniture

Moisture can negatively impact natural wicker furniture over time. When exposed to excess moisture, natural wicker may soften, rot, develop mold/mildew, and warp. Too much moisture can also weaken the structure of wicker pieces. To prevent these issues, it’s important to store natural wicker indoors or cover it when not in use. Synthetic wicker may be more resistant to moisture damage.

This article will discuss different types of moisture damage natural wicker can experience. Tips will also be provided on properly caring for natural wicker to protect it from moisture and enjoy the furniture for years. Maintaining natural wicker helps prevent problems from excess moisture and sunlight exposure.

  • Natural wicker fibers readily absorb water through their porous structure. Excess moisture gets trapped inside without sufficient drying.
  • Prolonged dampness degrades wicker’s natural plant composition and flexibility over numerous wet/dry cycles.
  • Moisture causes softening as fibers become waterlogged and lose stiffness permanently without care.
  • Constant dampness promotes hidden mold/rot that decays wicker internally.
  • Correct maintenance like covering, drainage, and placement rotation prevents moisture issues long-term.

Understanding the Relationship Between Moisture and Natural Wicker

Wicker is mostly made from woven plant fibers like rattan, bamboo, and reed. These natural materials can soak up moisture like a sponge because of their tiny, porous structure. Water gets pulled deep inside the fibers, where it can get trapped if the wicker isn’t dried out completely.

Because wicker isn’t waterproof, it breaks down easily when wet a lot. The fibers are “hygroscopic,” meaning they readily take in water molecules from the air or liquid water. High humidity keeps the fibers in a constant damp state even without rain.

If the wicker stays wet for long periods, it can weaken the structure from the inside out over time. As the fibers get waterlogged, they lose their natural flexibility and stiffness. Too much moisture also allows mold and fungi to grow, which can decay the plant materials.

Normally, wicker will absorb a small amount of moisture from the air and release it when humidity changes. But when the wicker is constantly wet without drying, this damages the plant fibers faster than usual. Understanding this helps explain why too much moisture is so bad for how long wicker lasts and looks good.

Softening of Wicker Material: A Consequence of Moisture Exposure

One of the most obvious signs that wicker has too much moisture damage over time is when the woven fibers get soft. As we talked about before, water gets sucked deep inside the porous wicker where it can get trapped. If the wicker doesn’t dry out enough between exposures to water, the fibers will absorb too much and lose their normal stiffness.

Here are some common ways you can tell if wicker is softening:

  • Strands that used to stand up straight may now be drooping down or lying flat on the frame.
  • Individual pieces of wicker that feel soft and squishy instead of holding their shape as they should.
  • Furniture may look sunk-in or misshapen instead of keeping its intended rigid design. Chairs can lose back support or wobble.
  • Softer spots may dent or squish under light pressure where moisture built up the most.

Keeping wicker wet for too long breaks it down faster over time through mold, organisms, and chemical changes in the fibers. It needs enough dry periods in between to stop permanent softening damage. If you notice any of these signs, it’s a sign your wicker may have too much moisture exposure.

The Dangers of Rot in Wicker Furniture: Causes and Prevention

When moisture becomes trapped deep within wicker fibers, it creates an ideal breeding ground for parasitic fungi to take hold and spread. This can lead to a dangerous condition called wet or brown rot.

The causes of rot in wicker are:

  • Sustained moisture from rain, flooding, high humidity, or wet ground contact without drying time
  • Physical damage or cracks that allow water ingress
  • Poor ventilation restricting moisture evaporation

Rot progresses slowly, but it weakens wicker internally in ways that aren’t always visually apparent. Signs include dark discoloration, powdery rotted fibers, and crumbling material. Left untreated, rot can compromise structural integrity over several seasons.

To prevent rot:

  • Store indoors or under cover during rainy periods
  • Allow adequate ventilation and drainage for outdoor wicker
  • Inspect for damage and reseal cracks in woven or solid surfaces
  • Clean and dry thoroughly after exposure to moisture

While some surface rot may only affect appearance, deeper infections can permanently damage wicker. Staying vigilant with moisture protection and drying is key to avoiding costly rot-related issues.

Mold Growth on Wicker: An Unpleasant Side Effect of Moisture

Excess moisture trapped within the wicker provides an ideal environment for mold to flourish. Warm humid conditions allow mold spores to germinate and form visible colonies on exposed surfaces.

Common signs of mold include fuzzy or cotton-like black, white, or greenish patches. Mold has a musty, unpleasant odor and can discolor or damage wicker over time through enzymes and metabolic processes.

Mold favors constantly damp spots without airflow, such as underneath cushions or in crevices. Materials that seldom fully dry out between exposures are most at risk. Indoor humidity over 50% also promotes household mold.

To reduce mold risks:

  • Flip outdoor cushions weekly and store them upside down to dry
  • Improve ventilation and air circulation around wicker
  • Clean spills promptly and dry thoroughly after rain
  • Use a dehumidifier or ventilation fans indoors as needed

If mold appears, scrub with a diluted bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) and allow to fully air dry. Prevention through moisture control and drying is much easier than mold treatment.

Proper maintenance plays a large role in preventing issues. In our next section, we’ll look at moisture’s impact on the structural integrity of the wicker.

Moisture’s Impact on the Structural Integrity of Wicker Furniture

Moisture damage goes deeper than just how the wicker looks. Too much wetness over time can weaken the frames that hold the woven wicker together and give the furniture its shape.

Things like wood, aluminum, and plastic make up the important frames under the wicker. Moisture that seeps deep into the wicker fibers can also enter these load-bearing frame materials.

Wood frames are especially at risk. As wood takes in water, it expands and shrinks with changing humidity. This causes tiny cracks that make it weaker. Untreated, wet wood will swell up and twist out of shape faster when under stress.

Aluminum and plastic frames can also rust or decay from moisture trapped inside over many years of use. Strands of rattan woven through the frame joints may swell up too tight.

Proper drying and maintenance help frames last a long time. Constant dampness leads to breaks, loose pieces, wheel problems, and finally the frames breaking when holding weight. Without strong frames, wicker furniture won’t stay standing.

It’s important to understand moisture damage extends beyond just how the wicker looks. The hidden frame structure needs protection too for furniture to withstand long-term use.

Protecting Your Wicker from Moisture Damage: Tips and Techniques

There are several proactive steps you can take to safeguard your wicker investments from the harmful effects of moisture:

  • Cover wicker when not using it. Use weather-proof cushions or breathable covers to keep off rain and moisture, even when stored outside.
  • Provide good drainage and airflow. Put outdoor wicker on an elevated, slotted surface so water can evaporate underneath with space to dry out.
  • Choose waterproof cushions and pads made of mold-resistant foam and tightly sealed fabric that won’t absorb liquid or stay wet. Replace if soaked.
  • Store indoors or covered during heavy rain. Bring patio furniture inside or securely cover it if several rainy days are expected.
  • Inspect regularly. Check for signs of dampness, mold, or frame issues. Deal with small problems before they get worse.
  • Wipe off after rain or spills. Don’t let moisture sit and soak in overnight.
  • Repair cracks or gaps. Reseal wooden parts and joins where water could get into the fibers long-term.
  • Move furniture around sometimes. Shift locations so one side isn’t always exposed to dripping gutters or other moisture sources.

Taking simple care steps like covering, inspecting, and cleaning up spills right away helps protect wicker from moisture damage over the years.

The Role of Humidity in Wicker Material Deterioration

While direct moisture exposure poses clear risks, elevated indoor or outdoor humidity levels can also negatively impact wicker over time, even without rain or spills. Wicker readily absorbs water molecules from humid air.

Prolonged periods of high indoor humidity upwards of 50% keep wicker in a constant state of dampness. Without full drying time between exposures, this leads to a gradual breakdown of fibers deep within the material.

Signs humidity may be an issue include:

  • Musty odor
  • Formation of condensation on surfaces
  • Difficulty fully drying wicker before next humid exposure

To control humidity:

  • Use dehumidifiers in basements or living areas near wicker
  • Ensure adequate ventilation and airflow
  • Use fans to circulate dry air
  • Monitor humidity levels with a gauge

While ideal indoor humidity is generally 30-50%, areas containing wicker furnishings may require more advanced controls. Consistently high humidity poses risks similar to direct moisture sources if not mitigated properly.

Proper cleaning and maintenance routines can also help combat humidity damage to wicker over the long run. Let’s discuss recommendations for wicker care in moist environments.

Cleaning and Maintaining Wicker in Moist Environments

Frequent cleaning helps remove surface moisture, debris, and contaminants that can degrade wicker weaves over time. In humid climates, a consistent maintenance routine is especially important.

  • Vacuum or gently brush wicker weekly to lift dust/dirt. Pay attention to crevices.
  • Wash with a soft brush or cloth + lukewarm water + mild soap as needed. Rinse thoroughly.
  • For mold/mildew, prepare a 1:9 bleach + water solution and scrub affected areas.
  • Spot treat stains promptly before they set. Use approved cleaners.
  • Allow to air dry completely before storing or reusing furniture.
  • Check for moisture damage after rain and dry out as possible.
  • Inspect wood or metal frames regularly for rot, corrosion, or wear.
  • Reweave or repair loose strands before they worsen.
  • Consider the occasional reapplication of a water-resistant sealant to the exterior wicker.

Regular cleaning paired with thorough drying time is crucial for wicker longevity in high-humidity climates. Neglecting maintenance risks allows issues to develop unnoticed.

Dry vs. Wet Wicker: The Effects of Moisture on Appearance and Longevity

Proper protection and maintenance of the wicker can significantly impact its visual state even after several years of weathering. Wicker exposed to regular moisture typically shows more prominent signs of deterioration.

Wicker maintained under dry, ventilated conditions retains its:

  • Natural color and luster for far longer
  • Taut, rigid weaves that hold strong shapes
  • Smooth textures without discoloration or flaking
  • No musty scents or mold/rot indications
  • Structural integrity without warping or swelling

Conversely, wicker lacking moisture protection may exhibit:

  • Faded, dulled appearance from chemical/UV breakdown
  • Loose, misshapen fibers that droop or flatten
  • Rough, damaged textures from swelling/contraction
  • Moldy/mildewed smells or darkened spots
  • Warped, cracked, or compromised frames over time

Proactive moisture prevention extends wicker furniture lifespan by decades rather than mere seasons. In comparison, consistently wet wicker deteriorates much more noticeably.

Enhancing Wicker’s Natural Moisture Resistance

For wicker that faces frequent moisture exposure, some options can prolong its lifespan by strengthening resistance over time:

  • Waterproofing sprays and sealants: Look for breathable formulas containing resins that penetrate fibers. Reapply periodically.
  • Outdoor-rated sealants for wood frames provide an extra moisture barrier without altering the appearance.
  • All-weather cushions with fully sealed linings prevent moisture contact with the wicker below. Replace as needed.
  • Custom-cut furniture covers made of breathable, mildew-resistant materials like Sunbrella fabric. Consider covers fitted for chairs or removable tablecloths.
  • For severe moisture environments like boats or poolsides, consider solid synthetic rattan which resists water damage extremely well but lacks the texture of natural wicker.

With proper application and reapplication, protective treatments significantly boost wicker’s defenses against water, humidity, and UV damage compared to leaving it unsealed. Always test sealants in inconspicuous spots first.