How to Refinish a Papasan Chair

Thomas Ferraioli

The papasan chair with its comfortable round cushion and rattan frame make curling up to read a book or watch television more fun. Refinishing an old chair can be done in a weekend or less, depending on how much "elbow grease" is needed.


If the cushion has been left outside or poorly stored, it may need to be replaced.


Polyurethane is flammable. Work in a well ventilated area.

Refinish a Papasan Chair Frame

  1. Clean the frame of the chair with a mild soap solution, such as Murphy Oil soap, to remove dirt and grime. Wipe down each crevice, especially at joints where the rattan is woven. Dry with a towel.

  2. Sand the rattan frame lightly with coarse sandpaper, followed by fine sandpaper. Which grit you use will depend on how much of the existing finish you want to remove and if you plan on restaining the piece; keep in mind that the lower the grit number, the more aggressive the sandpaper. Test a 100 or 150 grit first, in an inconspicuous place, such as the inside of the base.

  3. Remove the dust created by the sanding with a vacuum or dust cloth. Do not wet unprotected rattan as it may stain.

  4. Coat with wood stain, if desired. Allow to dry as per the manufacturer's instructions.

  5. Apply two coats of polyurethane. Allow to thoroughly dry before using.

Cleaning the Cushion

  1. Vacuum the cushion to remove loose dirt and soil.

  2. Mix a solution of upholstery shampoo. Make certain to purchase a solution that is suitable for hand shampooing (as opposed to a solution that is to be used in an extractor machine).

  3. Agitate the solution with a sponge to create a frothy foam.

  4. Scoop a liberal helping of suds with a well wrung-out sponge. The key to hand shampooing is to use foam to do the cleaning, not a sopping wet sponge.

  5. Test the cleaning solution in an inconspicuous part of the cushion before proceeding.

  6. Work the lather in a overlapping, circular pattern over the surface of the cushion. Blot dry with a clean, dry towel.

  7. Repeat, cleaning small sections at a time. Once the cushion has dried, vacuum before putting into use.