Caring for Cane Furniture Tip Sheet
Copyright 2009 by The Wicker Woman®–Cathryn Peters
Follow these helpful hints, tips and suggestions to keep your cane seat chairs and cane furniture strong and supple for many long years of life and enjoyment.
Be sure to also visit the Seatweaving FAQ page for answers to your questions about chair caning and other types of seat weaving.
1.) Keep cane chairs and furniture away from extreme heat situations and areas with low humidity.
These conditions could cause the cane to dry out and become brittle and break. Also direct sunlight and heater ducts are areas to be avoided. Consider using a humidifier in the winter which can be especially helpful to keep the air moist and not too dry.
Using a high-oil content furniture polish product when you dust helps to keep the cane supple, too. Lemon oil, orange oil, or mineral oil (use sparingly) applied to both the top and bottom of the cane seat a few times a year is usually sufficient.
2.) Distribute the weight evenly on the seat.
A cane seat is intended to take evenly distributed weight of the person sitting on the seat, not concentrated weight, like a knee or foot. So NEVER kneel on a cane seat or use it as a ladder or step stool. Doing so will cause the cane strands to break and the seat will need to be rewoven prematurely.
3.) Is your seat sagging?
Cane has natural elastic properties, but eventually the caned seat will begin to sag with heavy or prolonged use. It is important to tighten the cane or it will begin to wear and break along the inside edge of the seat frame, both on the sides and front and back edges.
Cane seats that are not too badly stretched or that are free of broken strands, can be revived by turning the chair upside-down and applying a warm, wet cloth to the underside of the cane seat. Let the cloth and cane dry naturally overnight. Remove the cloth and turn chair upright and don’t let anyone sit on it for at least 48 hours. This treatment will dry and shrink the cane, tightening it up in the process, taking the pressure off the inside wooden edges.
An alternative solution would be to use a spray water bottle and spritz the seat throughly with warm water. Then let the seat dry overnight and as it dries the cane will shrink and pull tightly once again. Don’t allow anyone to sit on chair seat for at least 48 hours until it’s completely dry.
This tightening process is most effective when used regularly within the first five years of recaning and won’t work at all if there are several broken strands. Using this preventative method three or four times a year should be sufficient to help prolong the life of your cane seat chair for many years.
This especially pertains to large chairs with a seat diameter of greater than 14 inches. A chair pad will distribute the weight evenly and take the pressure off the individual strands of cane, thus making them last longer.
5.) Keep seats clean.
Clean grimy or dirty cane seats with a wood soap such as Murphy’s or mild detergent in warm water, using a soft cloth or perhaps a soft bristle brush.
Take care not to damage the wood surface with the water. Rinse well and then let the seat dry naturally on a warm, windy day to eliminate the possiblity of mold and mildew setting in which will damage and stain the cane. Do not sit on the seat for at least 48 hours, otherwise the cane will stretch out of shape.
If you notice mold or mildew growing on your cane furniture, use a strong solution of bleach in warm soapy water to clean. Then rinse well and dry outdoors in the sunshine on a warm, windy day. Be careful not to spill the bleach solution on any surrounding wooden frame parts and wipe off any wooden surfaces immediately.
7.) Cane furniture storage and useage tips.
Do not store or use cane or wicker furniture in high humidity areas or in wet areas where mold and mildew can present a problem. Basements, crawl spaces, up next to a wall, or on the porch pushed up next to the wall of the house where the furniture does not get adequate air circulation are places to avoid.
8.) Caning a chair seat yourself? Then be sure to bevel the inside edge of the seat and sand it well before beginning to weave.
This applies to weaving both the traditional hole-to-hole strand cane method or the sheet cane, spline cane, or cane webbing method with the large hole in the middle of the wood frame. The inside wooden edge of the seat is usually a sharp 90 degree angle and may eventually cut the cane, if this step is forgotten. Use a small rasp, file or plane to pare down the edge and then smooth with sand paper.
9.) No need for final finish treatments of varnish, stain or lacquer on newly rewoven cane seats.
Because chair cane has a naturally glossy finish, traditionally cane seats are left unfinished to allow the cane to absorb moisture in the air and remain flexible, expanding and contracting. Although cane will darken with age on its own to a nice honey-brown golden color, it will take several years to achieve this.
If you feel you must apply some sort of finish, high oil content furniture polish products can be used successfully; lemon oil, orange oil and mineral oil. Occassionally, tung oil varnish or even wax furniture polish are used as a finish on the cane without harmful affects.
10.) Want your newly caned seat to match others in a set?
If you prefer to hasten the darkening process of a newly recaned seat, or need to match a new chair seat to an existing set, use oil-based stain (Minwax brand is good) and then a coat of lacquer or varnish can be applied over that.Do not apply varnish to the under side of the cane seat, though.
Realize too, that the finish may not match exactly, may be blotchy in appearance, and will tend to dry out the cane, which may cause the seat to fail prematurely. The preferred method is to leave a cane seat in its natural state, without adding any final finish products.
11.) With reasonable care, attention and use, your cane-seated chair should last from 5-25 years.
But if you notice a few broken strands or a hole becoming bigger, place a padded cushion over the seat to gain many more months or even years of use. I recommend to all my customers that they keep using the chair until the entire seat (or large portion of it) fails, before they have it rewoven. Enjoy!
- If you have further questions or concerns about your cane and wicker furniture, please go to Seatweaving FAQ and Wicker FAQ pages.
- Not sure whether you have cane or rattan reed furniture? Click on the descriptions, harvesting and history of cane and reed page.
- Can’t decide what kind of seating material or pattern is used? Compare your chair seat here, “How to Identify Woven Seat Patterns”.
- Or if you’d like to do some chair caning yourself and need raw materials and tools, visit the Cane & Basket Supplies page for everything you need.
- And see the “How-to Install Cane Webbing” instructions and “Chair Caning Instructions” article for reweaving or recaning the chair seats yourself.
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