How to clean wicker outdoor furniture


Wicker furniture. (Bigstock Photo)
June 11

Question: How can I clean old wicker furniture that stays outside on a porch?

— Potomac

Answer: By “old wicker,” you might mean furniture made of natural materials, such as rattan, reed, willow or bamboo. Or maybe you mean a more modern but somewhat aged interpretation made of metal and strands of plastic?

If you’re dealing with natural materials, vacuum off loose grit. A brush attachment works well. If the furniture is still dirty, mix a little clear dish soap into a bucketful of warm water. Scoop the suds onto a sponge, and use that to wipe the surface clean. Be careful not to soak the wicker, especially the framing. When you’re done, wipe off any residue, rinsing the sponge frequently in clear water. Let the chairs dry completely before anyone sits on them, or the wicker could stretch out of shape.

Synthetic wicker stands up to water better, so you can use a few shortcuts. Start by hosing it off. If you’re careful, you can even use a pressure washer set to a very low pressure. Use a sponge and soapy water to clean any areas that still look grimy, then rinse again with a hose.

With both types of wicker, prevent the fading and brittleness caused by the sun. Bring the furniture indoors between uses, or at least cover pieces that will sit unused for extended periods. Protect against mildew by making sure the furniture is clean and completely dry before you cover it.

Question: My bathroom countertop is black granite. I placed a container of silver jewelry cleaner on it. Apparently some of the liquid dribbled down the sides, so now there is a light-colored ring on the stone. Any hope of returning the color so the area matches the rest of the countertop?

— Richmond

Answer: Black granite doesn’t typically turn white from chemical etching. So you’re probably dealing with a more complicated situation. Someone might have applied a sealer without testing whether your piece of granite was porous enough to benefit from sealing. In that case, the sealer would have stayed on the surface and might have turned white where the jewelry cleaner dripped. Or the countertop might be lighter-colored granite or even a different kind of stone that was dyed to make it look black. Or it might not be granite at all. Black quartz, a manufactured material made of minerals and polymer, and black cultured marble, another manufacturered material, look similar and could be damaged by jewelry cleaner.

If the stain is within a surface sealer, you may be able to remove it with acetone or methylene chloride paint stripper. Test a small area first, and make sure there is good ventilation.

If that doesn’t work, you’re probably better off just replacing the countertop. While it is theoretically possible to polish away gouges and etch marks in granite and quartz, representatives at companies that work with these materials said it’s probably not worth it, especially since you’re dealing with just a bathroom countertop. “Sometimes the cure costs more than the replacement,” said Sharon Koehler of Artistic Stone Design in Richmond (804-594-7069; www.artisticstonerichmond.com), which deals with natural stone.

For a bathroom countertop, she said, it’s usually possible to find a granite remnant, priced at $40 a square foot plus $125 for a sink cutout.

Remnants are also available at Capitol Granite in Midlothian, Va. (804-379-2641; www.capitolgranite.net ). A quartz remnant there would cost $40 a square foot, including making a template, cutting for the sink and installing it.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com. Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

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