The Difference Between Rattan and Wicker

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wicker chairs

I’ve fawned over many wicker patio furniture sets in my day. I’ve even owned a few pieces! If you’re like me, when you started comparison shopping wicker patio furniture you came across the term “rattan.” There it sat on the page, with no explanation or reason, leaving you to figure out what it means. Since you’re here, you decided to try and uncover the mystery. So, what’s the difference between rattan and wicker?

The Difference

Simply put, “wicker” is a technique of weaving plant materials into a usable product (in our case, patio furniture). “Rattan” is a vine that can be cultivated and woven using the wicker technique. However, I should state that not all wicker patio furniture is made from rattan!

What Exactly Is Rattan?

Rattan in it’s raw form is a vine-like plant native to many different locations. Being very similar to bamboo, its durable fibers are ideal for wicker-weaved patio furniture.

By Dinesh Valke from Thane, India – Rattan Cane, CC BY-SA 2.0

Here is rattan cane in one of its natural habitats, a forest in India. Rattan actually has a productive synergy with the forests it calls home. Because of the economic value derived from harvesting rattan, loggers have an incentive not to cut down the surrounding trees. Rattan also grows much faster than tropical wood. This also makes it an attractive alternative to logging.

What About Synthetic Rattan?

You might have also came across “synthetic rattan” during your patio furniture search. How does synthetic rattan (also known as PE rattan) differ from it’s organic counterpart? Well, for starters it’s man-made! While I tend to avoid buying faux anything, there’s a good argument to be made for selecting PE rattan.

For one thing, synthetic rattan is able to to withstand harsher environments than organic rattan. It fares much better in humid, moist locations and resists fading when exposed to heavy sunlight. The same cannot be said about the plant.

Cost

At this point, you’re wondering about the potential cost. Unfortunately, rattan wicker patio furniture tends to be expensive compared to synthetic options. Let’s take a look at a real world example.

Here is a single handmade rattan wicker love-seat. It costs anywhere between $400 and $500 dollars.

Natural Handmade Rattan Wicker Loveseat

This is a gorgeous piece of furniture. But you’ll have a hard time keeping it safe from the elements and the price tag is a bit high for my taste.

Now, let’s compare that to an entire set of rattan PE furniture, which can typically be found for around the same price!

Walsunny 5-Piece Rattan PE Patio Furniture Set

This is a little more my speed. It’s extremely weatherproof and doesn’t break the bank. It may not have the authenticity that rattan wicker provides, but this set beats it on price and durability.

If you’ve read my blog for long, you’ll know that I’m a sucker for a good deal. While I prefer the regal look of organic rattan, the synthetic version holds up better to the “wallet test.” That being said, I’d probably opt to go with the organic rattan for indoor furniture (assuming my kids ever stop destroying our things!).

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