Why thrift stores are the best places to look for wicker baskets

What I love about wicker baskets is that they’re somehow both down-to-earth and fanciful. On the one hand, they have a humble texture that reveals its age with time. But on the other hand, doesn’t it feel kind of whimsical and romantic to use a woven basket when you could simply toss your stuff into a plain old plastic box? Wicker is perfect for those immaculate cottagecore vibes — I can tell you that nobody is frolicking through a field of flowers with a Sterilite bin! Wicker’s intricate weaves are also a testament to human artistry, and it makes me feel a little sentimental to think about how most baskets are handwoven. 

Anyway, I absolutely love coming across wicker baskets at the thrift store. And, I think that a lot of people would really love buying baskets from the thrift store, too! But I recognize that it can be a bit intimidating to bring home a wicker item even if it’s ridiculously affordable. After all, how do you choose a durable one, and how do you even clean a wicker basket? Is it worth bringing home a woven bin that’s a little worn down? Has some questionable grime on it? Don’t worry — here are my tips and tricks for buying wicker at the thrift store.

Where to buy a wicker basket at the thrift store

Gray brown wicker basket
I find so many baskets at Goodwill!

My all-time favorite place to shop for wicker baskets is the thrift store! Obviously, you can buy wicker baskets at your local home goods or craft store — they’re pretty much everywhere when people are gearing up for Easter and spring cleaning. That said, wicker baskets, especially if you like a large rattan basket, can cost a pretty penny when you buy them brand new. 

But here’s a secret: Wicker baskets are almost always glossed over at secondhand stores. I very often find them picking up dust in the houseware section. You can find recent styles, too: My local Goodwill typically features a ton of wicker from places like Target and World Market. 

I do, however, prefer smaller secondhand shops for buying wicker. The independently run thrift store in my town vets its inventory from both estate sales and donations, so the wicker styles are typically in clean condition and feature more unique styles. Still, it doesn’t hurt to look at bigger chains like Goodwill and Savers if you live closer to those stores.

How much wicker baskets cost at the thrift store

Wicker basket
Can you believe that this basket was $7 at the thrift store? I did wash down the stain a bit, but I could always stain it again by hand.

Wicker baskets usually cost anywhere between $2 to $15 at my local thrift stores. They can easily cost anywhere from $20 to $100 at a home decor store, which is fair if you consider the cost of labor. But if you’re on a tight budget and want to enjoy beautiful wicker, it doesn’t hurt to check out the thrift store. Thrift stores also pretty much carry them year-round, although they might bring out extra styles for beginning-of-the-year organization and Easter. 

How to choose a wicker basket at the thrift store

Basket holding perfume
My perfume basket that’s home to my sweeter perfumes, like Juicy Couture Gold and V&R Flowerbomb.

1. Consider the weave style and color

I won’t attempt to cover all of the weave styles out there, but I do think it’s worth considering if a weave suits your aesthetic preferences and functional needs. For example, you probably won’t want a super open weave if you’re using a basket as a plant cachepot — it’s best to choose a tight weave to prevent water and dirt from falling through open holes. Color is also another factor to consider. Personally, I prefer lighter wicker and find that stained wicker tends to transfer too much.  

2. Consider the wicker material

Do you prefer easy-to-clean synthetic resin, soft water hyacinth, light bamboo, or stiff and sturdy rattan? Keep texture preference in mind as you thrift for wicker. 

3. Check for fraying ends and broken strands.

While you can hypothetically fix wicker with some trimming and knotting, I tend to leave behind baskets that look a little too worn. 

4. Check for any questionable stains, mold growths, and hard-to-remove grime.

If anything looks excessively icky, I’ll just leave it behind at the thrift store. Mysterious red stain? Lots of fuzzy green growths? Hard pass. We know what happens with mold in The Haunting of Hill House.

How to clean a wicker basket

Stained wicker
I found this beautiful basket at the thrift store for about $10. It has a lovely weave and stain, and I use it for holding my light clothes. Cleaning it was a pain, though, since it had a wood oil stain for its handsome reddish finish.

One major thing that kept me from buying secondhand wicker baskets for a long time was the thought of cleaning them. I simply didn’t know how to clean them, and it haunted me a little to think about all the yucky things they could have held, if I’m being honest. But a little bit of research online can go a long way. Plus, a lovely friend of mine sent me a video by Rajiv Surendra on how to revive wicker baskets!

Tips and tricks for cleaning a wicker basket

Here’s how I approach cleaning my wicker hauls from the thrift store. These steps should work for both synthetic and natural materials.  

  1. First, manually dump out whatever you can by turning your basket downwards and gently tapping the bottom. 
  2. Then, go in with a handheld vacuum cleaner (or a vacuum cleaner hose) and remove any extra crumbs, debris, and dust buildup. 
  3. Mix together a solution of water and Murphy wood soap. (Follow the instructions on your bottle.) You could also mix a few drops of dish soap into a tub or container of water.
  4. With a brush (you can use a scrub brush, tooth brush, or even a microfiber cloth), scrub the solution onto your basket. If your basket has a wood stain, be careful not to strip it down too much. 
  5. Rinse the basket thoroughly. I like to hose my big baskets down in the yard, but a tub or sink should suffice for most baskets. 
  6. Allow the basket to air dry. Since it’s been cold and wet lately, I’ve been keeping my baskets in my room with a space heater. That said, you can also leave them outside if it’s especially sunny in your area. If you bring them inside, be sure to keep a garbage bag or tarp beneath them to avoid damaging your flooring. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of wood oil stains transferring onto my carpet. 
  7. Additional step: Be sure to toss any fabric basket liners into your laundry.
  8. Optional: Spruce up your basket with a wood polisher. Some people DIY their wicker polish with linseed oil, but I find that stuff like Old English works just fine. 
  9. From time to time, be sure to wipe down your wicker baskets, washing and drying them if you deem it necessary. If you’re concerned about mold, wipe a 1:4 solution of vinegar to water onto your basket, then apply a sealant when it’s dry. (I’m not overly concerned about this since I live in a dry area and try to use resin wicker in the bathroom.)

What to put in a wicker basket

Duck wicker basket
I’m pretty sure that I found this cute bird basket for about $3 at the thrift store! 

You can pretty much use wicker baskets whenever you would use a plastic bin. To get you started on brainstorming all of the ways that you can use a wicker basket, here are some storage ideas. 

  • Plants: Unless you apply some type of sealant, I only recommend using a wicker planter for an indoor plant since excess moisture and heat can ruin your basket. I also recommend keeping a concealable saucer inside of your wicker cachepot to catch water and prevent mold buildup.
  • Laundry: We’ve all seen those large wicker laundry baskets. I like to slip in a laundry bag (like this one from Target) to avoid transferring any wood stains onto my clothes. 
  • Dog toys: Elevate your pup’s space with a wicker basket for dog toys. If you’ve got a slobbery dog (me, times three), I also recommend leaving some type of liner in this basket to avoid exposing your wicker to moisture. 
  • Books: You can slip your current reads or library books into a wicker basket to have a convenient home for them off of a shelf. 
  • Craft supplies: Instead of an uninspired plastic box, why not use a wicker basket? 
  • Perfume: I keep a few of my go-to perfumes and lotions in a wicker basket by my nightstand (as shown above).
  • Food: Like gingham, wicker is the epitome of picnic chic. Use a wicker basket to hold snacks, refreshments, and other picnic must-haves for rustic, cottagecore vibes. 

The thrift store can be such a treasure trove for wicker baskets. If you’re on a budget and want to find one-of-a-kind styles, I recommend heading to a secondhand shop before making your way to a department store. With these tips in mind, I hope you feel encouraged to go forth and embrace secondhand wicker to enjoy its homey, cozy texture in your space!