Featured, Thrifting

Cleaning a Thrifted Basket

Baskets are one of those things you can ALWAYS find secondhand. I personally avoid them usually as they are typically so gross! It seems a lot of people feel the same way. I think it’s because most of us are afraid to clean them too aggressively.

Welp, I’m a cleaner, and if I can’t aggressively clean something secondhand then I don’t bring it home. For my baskets purchased new, I usually wipe them with a rag dampened with cleaner and vacuum them with a soft bristled brush attachment as needed for regular cleaning. I have only ever thrifted one other basket, my lovely watermelon slice, and it was in excellent condition and only needed that same treatment.

When I saw this apple slice basket on one of my recent thrifting trips, I had to have it to go with my watermelon! It was pretty dusty though and in desperate need of a bath. But, can you even bathe a basket? I knew that to bring it home would be a new experiment in cleaning for me.

I watched a couple of videos where others washed their baskets with success, so I decided to give it a try. As with my afghan de-fuzzing project, I chose to show my process on the blog to give you a before-and-after of one person’s trial and error in case it helps you either determine what may work for your own situation or decide whether or not to pick up one of these secondhand.

As I like to stress, USE COMMON SENSE. If your great-grandfather was smuggled out of a war zone as a babe in your basket, then maybe consult a professional.


I thought at first that it might be helpful to determine the exact material of which my basket is made, in order to best clean it. In this research I discovered that the term “wicker” is a bit ambiguous. It can refer to the many varieties of pliable, plant-based materials used in weaving a piece OR to the weaving technique itself OR to the end product…

Regardless, whatever plant-based material mine is indeed made of, it is more or less in the “wood” family, so I thought, hey, why not Murphy Oil Soap? This is one of those products that has been around for ages that we all probably have in our cleaning stash. It is supposed to be a wood cleaner, so I thought it would be as safe a bet as any. It has worked well so far for my vine wreath.


I filled a big tub outdoors with water and the Murphy’s Oil Soap. I simply allowed the water filling the tub to agitate the soap, swirling it around the basket. If the basket had been sturdier and also natural color only, without paint or dye, I would have scrubbed it lightly with a gentle brush, but I did not want to take additional risks, when this was new territory for me anyway. Besides, it was mostly the dusty sort of dirty, not the grimy sort.

Obviously, water is not good for wood pieces in large amounts, so while I allowed the basket to sit in the soapy water, it was not for long. I agitated it with my hands some more before going through a couple of clean water rinse batches in the tub to remove any soapy residue.

I then let it dry outdoors in the bright sunshine the rest of the day.

I thought that after such an aggressive cleaning, it might have benefited from applying some sort of oil to nourish the wood, but apparently a varnish is typically applied to a finished basket which seals it and would make that step pointless.

So there you have it! There wasn’t much to it I know, but here is another person’s experience taking a risk to freshen up an old item. My basket seemed no worse for the ordeal and I would not hesitate to try it again to another one now, even incorporating a brush next time if needed.

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