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My wife and I have just bought 6 cane (wicker) dining chairs. I would like to protect them from the inevitable staining from spilt food and drink, grubby hands etc.

What is the best way to protect them? So far, I have read a little about Tung Oil and polyurethane. Is Scotchguard suitable, or only for fabrics?

I like the natural cane look and would like to preserve the colour if possible.

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In the end I applied two coats of an oil-based polyurethane from a spray can. I chose a semi-gloss finish and am happy with the appearance. – pharsicle Dec 6 '14 at 1:32
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Interesting question...

  • I'd never think to use scotchgard. It might work, but if it doesnt, any finish you try to apply on top will not stick. Maybe try this in a hidden area to see if it provides protection.

  • Tung oil can be a mixed bag - there's a difference between the pure stuff, the tung oil + driers, and the tung oil "finishes." So if you buy the wrong thing you could get either a nice gummy mess that takes forever to harden, or plain up thinned polyurethane.

  • I would recommend using thinned polyurethane or a "wiping varnish" - this can be purchased diluted, or you can buy poly and dilute it yourself with mineral spirits/Floetrol depending on if it's oil or water based (respectively). The advantage of thinning it is that it allows you to get more working time to evenly coat all the nooks and crannies, and it builds thickness much slower, preventing the wicker from looking plasticy.

Both tung oil (any version of it) and oil-based poly will darken slightly with time, turning a light yellow. Water based poly will not darken as it ages, but is not quite as hard... probably a good thing for wicker.

Ultimately, I'll recommend the thinned, water based poly.

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+1 on the thinned water based poly. Use satin finish to keep it from getting shiny. The oil based finishes will change the color of your wicker. Since you are after keeping the natural look, water based poly or spray lacquer will do that for you. Thinning it say 10-20% will allow it to coat into the deeper surfaces were food and other spills will be trapped. Water based dries really fast helping prevent the settling of dust in the finish. Spray lacquer does the same but will not get deep into places it needs top be. It will be drip city on the under side, be careful... – Jack Jul 16 '14 at 0:03

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