How to paint cane furniture

Cane, rattan and wicker are all types of woven furniture that tend to be grouped together with similar maintenance and issues. Most cane furniture is sold with a paint or clear finish. When the furniture ages, the finish often discolours, becomes dirty, chipped or scraped off. The first step to reviving your furniture is to clean it thoroughly.

Place plastic sheeting in an outdoor area without direct sunlight, as it will dry out the stripper too fast. Insert your garden hose through a window and hook it up to your sink faucet so that you can get hot water in the hose. Place the furniture on the plastic sheeting.

Wash the furniture with soap and water, using a nylon-bristle brush, toothbrush, a painter's brush with the bristles cut down to make it more stiff and brass wool. Pry the cane open a bit with the dowel rod to get into deep cracks or other hard-to-reach places. Use the hose to rinse and remove as much debris as possible.

Apply a stripper to the furniture, wearing safety goggles and gloves. Work the stripper as deep as possible, using the chopped-down painter's brush. It is important for the stripper to stay active (moist) for at least 15 minutes. Some strippers have companion misting bottles that have a chemical to keep the stripper active.

Remove the stripper, using a scrubber pad and toothbrush. The stripping process may take a few applications to remove all of the old finish. Rinse the stripper off with warm water. If you can't get it off with warm water, you may have to use a stripper remover. Strip until the finish looks the way you want it. Wipe the furniture dry with old towels and let the moisture dry out of the canes overnight. You may need to do additional drying with a hair dryer just to be sure.

Apply three to four coats of sealer for natural finishes with a paintbrush, allowing each coat to dry for an hour.

Spray on a primer designed for cane, rattan or wicker. Primer adheres to the cane and your finish paint adheres to the primer. For your finish paint, use a spray paint and hold the can at least 12 inches away from the canes. It is better to build up thin coats than have drips and runs from thick coats.


Stripping cane and wicker is often tedious because of the many sides and small areas. Often a cleaned piece will look much better than it did dirty, so consider adding a clear coat to a cleaned finish rather than stripping a piece all the way down.

Things You'll Need

  • Soap and water
  • Nylon-bristle brush
  • Toothbrush
  • Short paintbrush
  • Brass wool
  • Dowel
  • Hose
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Safety goggles
  • Rubber gloves
  • Stripper
  • Scrubber pad
  • Old towels
  • Hair dryer (optional)
  • Primer for cane or clear finish
  • Spray paint
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About the Author

F.R.R. Mallory has been published since 1996, writing books, short stories, articles and essays. She has worked as an architect, restored cars, designed clothing, renovated homes and makes crafts. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with bachelor's degrees in psychology and English. Her fiction short story "Black Ice" recently won a National Space Society contest.