What Are Rattan Baskets?

C. Mitchell

Rattan baskets are storage vessels made of fibers from the rattan palm, a tree indigenous to parts of Southeast Asia and Africa. Basket weavers typically harvest rattan palm fronds from the wild or from dedicated farms, then stem or soak them to make them malleable. Once softened, the fronds are tightly woven into durable, weather-resistant baskets that are beloved all over the world. Most rattan baskets are used for storage. Files, books, and clothing all find a home in rattan baskets of various shapes and sizes.

A basket made using the wicker process.
A basket made using the wicker process.

When it comes to affordable storage systems, rattan baskets are often some of the most cost-effective solutions. Price per item of course depends on brand and retail outlet, as well as intricacy and artistry of the finished product. At least in terms of raw materials, however, it is hard to beat a rattan basket's low-cost threshold. Palms are the only supplies needed.

Rattan palms grow abundantly both in the wild and on plantations in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, among other places.
Rattan palms grow abundantly both in the wild and on plantations in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, among other places.

Rattan palms grow abundantly both in the wild and on plantations in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, among other places. The palms are more like fast-growing vines than trees. Their fronds stay close to the forest floor, twisting and curving around other trees and growths. It is usually possible to harvest a great deal of rattan without killing the plant, and the fronds regenerate very quickly.

In harvest areas, local artisans weave the fibers into baskets, furniture, and any number of household products. Commercial manufacturers have also penetrated the market, often commissioning rattan baskets to fulfill special orders and merchandising needs. Some of these orders are fulfilled by local weavers, but most are completed in factories, with at least some help from mechanized processes.

Rattan baskets are lightweight, but can usually accommodate significant weight loads. They are commonly marketed as a way to bring both style and organization into a home. Even very inexpensive, machine-made baskets have a sort of refined, exotic look that can keep clutter out of the way while making a statement.

Many larger storage baskets, particularly rattan laundry baskets, are made with lids or handles. Smaller products are often made to resemble woven drawers that can fit onto shelves or inside of cabinets. They can be small or large; round, rectangular, or abstract in shape.

Baskets range in color from light tan to deep brown and require no staining or other treatment before use. They are structurally very similar to sea grass baskets, bamboo baskets, and willow baskets, all of which are commonly used for similar purposes. The distinguishing characteristic of a rattan basket is its exclusive use of rattan palm fibers.

Rattan baskets are sometimes also sold as wicker baskets. Wicker is not as much a material as it is a style. Woven in a specific way, a wicker basket usually incorporates a number of different fibers. Many rattan baskets are also wicker baskets, but just because a product is labeled wicker does not guarantees that it contains any rattan.

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Discussion Comments


@talentryto- Rattan baskets are durable and attractive, and are great for use around the house. They aren't difficult to clean, especially if you don't get them too dirty. Using a soft cloth with soap and warm water will do the trick.


I'm looking for a natural-looking basket to use around the house. I'm thinking about getting a rattan basket, but I'm wondering if anyone knows how to clean them without damaging the material.

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