Sweetgrass baskets were brought to America in the 17th century from West Africa. Weavers learn the techniques from previous generations and apply immense attention to detail and patience to produce a highly sought after sweetgrass basket. Because this piece of art is comprised of natural grasses, you must use ample care when handling and storing.
Use water and a soft cloth to clean surface dust or debris off a sweetgrass basket. The grasses derive from marsh areas and swamps so they are accustomed to water. Dip the cloth in water and wring it out before you wipe the surfaces of the basket. Employ a cotton swab damp with water to clean crevices hard to reach with a large cloth.
Fill a large bucket, bigger than the basket, with warm water, and dip the entire basket in if it is extremely dirty. A basket that has been sitting out for a long period of time may have large composites of dust in each small crevice so a bath in warm water is fast, ideal method for ridding the grime all at once. Hold the sides of the basket, or the handles, and submerge it into the water pushing it down and bringing it back up, all under water, in small, moderately rapid movements. This technique helps move the water through openings and lift out dirt. Let the basket dry in a well- ventilated space. Hang it, if possible, from a hook to help it dry quickly.
If you still notice dirt on the basket after you have submerged it into the water, add a little mild soap to the bucket. Mix the soap in with the water so it is not concentrated in one area of the bucket and put the basket into the soapy water. Repeat the same steps for pushing the water through all openings. Rinse the entire basket under warm running water to remove soap suds.
Store the basket in a container in a dry place. Although sweetgrass was accustomed to a watery growing environment, it no longer needs that moisture for survival and should not remain wet for an extended period of time. Extended wetness can cause mold or the basket may loose its sturdiness. A cardboard box is an optimal storing container because it will not trap moisture but it must be placed in a location that is not susceptible to water.