How to Repair Rattan Furniture

Rattan and cane furniture are all the rage! If you’re lucky you can find some rattan furniture at a thrift store to makeover, but it might need some repair. So, here’s how to repair rattan furniture!

Get more repairing furniture ideas here!


repaired rattan shelf

Who doesn’t love rattan? It’s totally in right now!

The downside? It’s fragile stuff and repairs often look intimidating.

If you’re in the refinishing business, you probably know that boho beauties are selling like hot-cakes and at a high dollar price point.

Yet, oftentimes, the fix is fairly inexpensive and simple, just takes some patience.

I spotted this rattan shelf in a warehouse and immediately thought it resembled a $350 Urban Outfitter look-a-like I’ve had my eyes on.

broken rattan shelf

While I am no basket weaving master – though there was an underwater basket weaving class offered at my college that I regret making fun of instead of enrolling in – I do have some simple techniques on how I repaired this wicker wonder in need of love.

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What you’ll need:

  • Dawn Dish Soap and Water
  • Scrubbing Brush for thicker reed or a Toothbrush for finer
  • A Coil of Reed Cane (measure your cane for exact measurements!)
  • Sharp Scissors or Wire Cutters
  • Wood Glue
  • Small Clips or String (wood clips, chip clips, etc.)
  • Spray Paint (optional, see below for exact paint used!)

How to Repair Rattan Furniture

  1. Scrub clean
  2. Clip off broken/damaged rattan
  3. Choose and soak
  4. Measure and cut
  5. Tuck and glue
  6. Finish with paint (optional)

Step One: Scrub clean

Using your soap and brush, give the rattan a good scrub.

For thinner, more fragile cane I would recommend a soft toothbrush.

The rattan on my shelf was pretty sturdy so I used a larger, scrubbing brush.

This will act as both a cleaning step, and in a way, a light sanding step to remove any previous residue or flaking rattan.

Step Two: Clip Off Broken/Damaged Rattan

Using your scissors or wire cutters, trim away any damaged or broken rattan. This will give you a clean slate for your new rattan.

*TIP: Take a picture before doing this so you can recall the patterns.

broken rattan

Step Three: Choose and Soak

Using the rattan that you trimmed away, measure the diameter to determine what millimeter size rattan you will need to replace it with.

There are flat and round types.

I purchased mine from Amazon, but also has a lot of options.

Once your rattan is purchased, soak the coil in water for 20 minutes.

If you omit this step your rattan will be very stiff, brittle, and difficult to work with.

I used a large bowl of water and kept it nearby while working with the rattan to prevent it from drying out.

Step Four: Measure and Cut

Next, it’s time to measure and cut the rattan!

No rulers or measuring tape required.

measuring new rattan

Simply cut the starter end of the rattan at an angle so you can easily wedge it into the space of the previous rattan and estimate the length.

cutting rattan at an angle

Allow for some extra tucking room on the other end and cut (if it’s too long you can trim it later).

Step Five: Tuck and Glue

Using your wood glue, simply dip each end of the rattan into the glue and tuck into the space you just measured.

tucking rattan back into place

Until the glue dries, you may need something to hold it in place and at the angle desired to keep the pattern consistent while the rattan and glue dry.

Wood clips or even string would work well, but in my case, I used IKEA chip clips. (Hey! Sometimes you have to get creative.)

glued and repaired rattan

Step Six: Paint (optional)                 

Once your glue is dry, remove the clips.

You can stop here if you love the look of the natural rattan.

Isn’t repairing rattan furniture easy!?

If your new rattan clashes with your existing rattan – which in my case, did because it was previously painted – you can apply spray paint.

Use any color of your choosing, but if you are aiming for a natural rattan look please refer to my how to refinish rattan post.

refinished rattan shelf

How I completed my look…

I completed my look by applying my custom blend spray paint lined out in my “how to refinish rattan furniture” post (linked in the paragraph above).

refinished and repaired rattan shelf

That’s it! This trendy little shelf was sold within 5 minutes on Facebook Market!!


"closeup of best way to repair rattan"

This makeover was created by Jess with Oak and Grain Restoration. She currently lives in North Carolina where she works full-time in an emergency room. She loves dipping into her creative side by transforming furniture and in the process, keeping her sanity.

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  1. Amber Hale says:

    Hi! Thank you for this great post! I am also refinishing a similar rattan shelf. I was wondering if you had any tips for tucking the rattan into the tight spaces? Most of my pieces are broken off inside the place where the rattan would get tucked. I would love any tips! Thanks

  2. Will this painting technique work on dark rattan as well? I’ve got two dark rattan swivel egg chairs – one new and one old that are darker brown…would love to look more like a “natural” rattan color!!

  3. once you soak the reed and fix it in place where you need it, won’t it shrink when it’s dry?

    1. It does very slightly. But it’s a little bit loose when it’s wet, even when you stretch it into place. It works beautifully.

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