Although wicker is tough enough to last through years of use, your wicker chairs will fare much better and last much longer when you properly care for them. Applying a protective coating to your wicker is one component of caring for them. There are several protective coatings that work well on wicker, including paint and various clear coats such as polyurethane, shellac and wax.
Paint adds color and charm to your wicker chairs and lets you make a style statement that is as classic -- white, anyone?-- or as crazy (purple!) as you like. In addition to being colorful, paint also is a strong protective coating for wicker. It seals out dust and excess moisture and provides a slick surface that you can wipe dirt and grime off of easily. Start with a clean, dry chair and use a paint sprayer or spray can for best results. Coat all of your wicker chairs' tiny cracks and crevices.
If you prefer a natural look, clear coatings such as polyurethane, shellac and varnish provide a protective coating without covering your wicker's lovely earth-tone colors. Spray applicators are the easiest and quickest way to thoroughly coat wicker's textured, woven surfaces. Again, start with a clean, dust-free, dry chair for best results.
The Michigan State University Extension recommends applying a thin coat of liquid furniture wax over your wicker's protective coating. The wax will provide an extra layer of protection against the elements and from everyday wear and tear, will give your wicker a glossy look and will help repel dirt and dust. Wait until your paint or clear coat is completely dry before applying furniture wax.
Other Protective Care
Wicker is slightly finicky in that the heat and dry air indoors tends to dry it out, while exposure to sun and outside weather can cause it to mold and deteriorate. If you use your wicker furniture indoors, do not place it near a heat source such as a fireplace or heater vent. If you keep your wicker furniture outdoors, place it in a covered location that protects it from rain and direct sunlight and bring it in during the winter months. Wicker's intricate woven reeds are dust traps, so vacuum your chairs with a soft brush attachment several times a year.