Laptops Surface

How do I clean a Surface Laptop Alcantara keyboard?

clean Surface Laptop Alcantara

Whoever decided to coat the Surface Laptop series in soft Alcantara really shouldn’t work in tech design any more. That’s probably why the Surface Laptop 3 offers metal options alongside the fabric finishes. 

Given you can’t replace the Alcantara keyboard without destroying the device in the process (the Surface Laptop famously got a 0/10 for repairability from iFixit), what happens if you’re a klutz and stain the fabric? 

Reader, I was in this situation and have managed to solve the problem. But it’s not cheap.

Can I clean the Surface Laptop?

Last year, I was using my Surface Laptop 2 to watch some Plex while cooking a particularly bubbly curry. It was too close to the pan, and some korma sauce managed to make horrible little yellow dots on the Alcantara keyboard. I made the mistake of trying to clean this and… well, it made things worse.

Mucky Surface Laptop Alcantara keyboard
Yuck.

No matter what I tried, the stain wouldn’t come out – and I tried a lot: Microsoft’s own advice, fabric cleaners, soap, nail polish remover, even diluted bleach. The stain just got muckier and muckier, and the only real consequence was making my laptop smell faintly of nail polish remover, while still looking like trash. Or more accurately, making its owner look like he needed to wash his hands more often.

The long and the short of it is this: you can’t clean the Surface Laptop keyboard if it gets stained by curry. Sorry.

So I looked into other options.  

Can I get a Surface Laptop keyboard skin?

For a while, I couldn’t find anything, because while plenty of people claim to sell skins for Surface Laptop, most of them only cover the easily adhesive metal bits, which was absolutely useless for me.

Then I found a wonderful Oregon company by the name of ToastMade. It makes wood and leather covers for pretty much any hardware: phones, tablets, game consoles or laptops. Brilliantly, that includes the Surface Laptop

It’s not cheap, but it looks good, and it crucially covers the Alcantara for an extra $20, meaning you’re looking at a minimum outlay of $89 (around £72 at the time of writing) plus shipping. I’d also suggest paying an extra $5 for them to cut out the Windows logo on the front. 

I got a cover in Walnut, and this is what my laptop looks like now:

clean Surface Laptop Alcantara

(Sidenote: judging by the pictures on the Toast website now, it looks like the skins no longer cover the whole keyboard, just the trackpad area. Not sure why this is the case, but glad I got in before the change. If you need the keyboard covered, I’d suggest you get in touch with them directly and see if they can make an exception for you.)

wooden cover for Surface Laptop

I wrote up the whole installation experience for now defunct techsite The Inquirer – and the original piece now lives on my website instead if you’re interested in reading it. But the long and short of it is that my Surface Laptop now looks classy again, and it hasn’t shown any signs of coming loose a year later. I may struggle to sell it my Surface Laptop 2 in future, but for the time being I can use it again without being judged. 

Well, not judged for being mucky, anyway. I may be judged as a hipster jerk, but I’ll take that over questions of hygiene any day of the week.

READ NEXT: What is Windows’ Cloud Download feature?

About the author

Alan Martin

Alan has been writing about tech professionally for a decade, and answering tech questions to family members on a voluntary basis for even longer. That should make him an ideal fit for Big Tech Question, then...

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