How To Clean Thermal Paste Off CPU? [Like a Pro!]


We know how important it is to keep your computer running at its best. And one of the most important steps in doing that is replacing the thermal paste from the CPU.

Thermal paste has a life, both on the shelf and between your heat sink and CPU

In this article, we’ll show you how to safely and effectively clean off old thermal paste so that your CPU can stay cool and working properly. We’ll cover all the essential steps, from gathering supplies to cleaning off pins, so that you have everything you need for a successful job.

So let’s get started!

Gather Supplies 

Get your workspace prepped and your supplies ready – it’s time to give that CPU a fresh start!

To remove thermal paste, you will need 90% or higher isopropyl alcohol, preferably 99%. You can also buy a dedicated thermal paste cleaning product for this purpose. You should also have some dry microfiber cloths on hand to ensure that the area is lint-free when you’re done.

Before starting, make sure your workspace is free from any dust and debris. This will help ensure that the area stays clean as you work. Also be sure to read any instructions provided by the manufacturer of your thermal paste before going ahead with cleaning it off. It’s important to follow their advice since different pastes may require different cleaning methods.

1. Removing the CPU Cooler

It’s time to give your CPU a breath of fresh air – let’s get rid of that old, crusty cooler and make way for a new one! Before taking out the cooler, it is best to let your computer run for around 15 minutes. This will help soften up the thermal paste that keeps the CPU and heatsink cemented together. After switching off the computer and unplugging everything, loosen the bolts or clips on the cooler (refer to its manual if unsure).

Next, twist the cooler gently back and forth until it becomes loose. Be careful not to yank or pull up on the heatsink as this can damage the CPU pins. If you have a non-stock cooler with/without 3rd party vendor badges then refer to their manufacturer’s manual or watch a removal video online.

When done correctly, you should easily be able to take off the heatsink. However, if it is still stuck after all your efforts then try running your computer again for an hour or so before attempting again.

Keep in mind that there are different mechanisms for both AMD and Intel CPUs so do some research beforehand so you don’t end up damaging any components while trying to remove them from each other.

2. Applying Alcohol

We’re now ready to take the next step in cleaning thermal paste off our CPU. Applying a high purity alcohol solution is the best way to loosen up any dry thermal paste that may have crept onto the motherboard.

  • To do this, we’ll need a clean paper towel and some pure alcohol. Dab the paper towel into the alcohol solution, then carefully wipe it over the surface of your CPU lid. If you find that there’s still some thermal paste left on the CPU lid, you can apply more pressure with your paper towel and add an extra dab of alcohol for good measure.
  • It’s important to give your CPU enough time to completely dry before reinstalling your cooler after applying alcohol – luckily, pure alcohol dries quickly so it shouldn’t take too long at all!
  • Once everything is dry and clean, you should be good to go with putting back together your PC components.

Our job here is done – we’ve successfully removed any traces of thermal paste from our CPU using a high-purity alcohol solution! With this helpful guide, you should now feel confident in cleaning off any stubborn dried thermal paste from your processor without causing damage or leaving residue behind.

3. Wiping off Excess Alcohol

Once you’ve finished removing the thermal paste, take a dry cloth and lightly wipe away any excess alcohol that may have been left behind. This will ensure that your CPU is as pristine as possible before reassembly.

It’s important to use caution when wiping off the alcohol, gently moving the cloth back and forth in smooth strokes rather than scrubbing or rubbing too hard. Be sure to get into all of the nooks and crannies of the CPU so no trace of the alcohol remains.

Using too much pressure could damage/scratch delicate components, so it’s best to be gentle with this step for maximum safety. You may need to repeat this process several times until any remaining traces of alcohol are removed from your CPU.

Additionally, double-check for any leftover pieces of thermal paste or lint that have accumulated on your device during disassembly; these should also be removed with a dry cloth prior to reassembly.

To ensure complete removal of all excess liquid, take another clean, dry cloth and wipe over your CPU once more for good measure.

Once everything has been wiped away, allow enough time for the parts to completely air dry before proceeding with reassembly – making sure not to handle them while they’re still wet can help prevent further damage from occurring during installation.

4. Cleaning the Heatsink

Wiping away any remaining residue, will ensure the delicate heatsink is free of any leftover gunk.

  • We’ll begin by wiping down the entire surface of the heatsink with some lint-free cloths. This will remove any large clumps of thermal paste that may be sticking around.
  • Next, it’s time to whip out the isopropyl alcohol and cotton swabs – these will come in handy when cleaning those hard-to-reach places where grime can hide.
  • We’ll apply a small amount of IPA directly onto the swab and rub in circular motions across the surface – this helps lift up any stubborn residue without damaging delicate parts.
  • Once we’ve done this, we’ll wipe off any excess liquid with a clean cloth before moving on to our final step. It’s important to inspect your work as you go – check again for scratches or deformations that could impact performance later on down the line!

Taking care not to miss any spots, we’re almost finished cleaning our heatsink! Now that all residual thermal paste has been removed from both our CPU and its companion heat sink, we can proceed confidently knowing there won’t be further damage down the road due to residual buildup or poor contact points between components. 

5. Applying New Thermal Paste

Carefully squeezing out a pea-sized dollop, we’ll create the perfect bond between our CPU and heatsink. After ensuring that our instructions are followed closely, it’s time to apply the thermal paste onto the processor.

Working slowly and deliberately, we’ll make sure that the paste is spread evenly across the surface before attaching the heatsink. To do this, hold the heatsink firmly in place while pressing down on each corner in order to ensure that it sits flat against our CPU. It’s important not to move it during this process as any shifting will cause an uneven distribution of thermal paste which won’t be effective at cooling our computer.

Once everything is in place and secure, we can now check if there are any air bubbles or gaps that could prevent heat from being dissipated properly. If so, these can easily be fixed by adding more thermal paste or gently pushing on any area with air bubbles until they’re gone. This may require some patience but it will pay off in improved performance for our machine!

6. Securing the CPU Heatsink

  • Firmly pressing down each corner to ensure a secure bond to make sure the heatsink sits flat against our processor. Applying even pressure across the entire surface of the heatsink is important, as this will ensure that all gaps between the processor and heatsink are filled with thermal paste. To do this we can use our fingers or a small flat object like a popsicle stick or credit card to firmly press down on it. We don’t want to exert too much force so as not to damage our components but enough so that there’s no wiggle room between them.
  • Next, check for any air bubbles in between the processor and heatsink which may cause overheating issues later on. If there are any air bubbles present, gently lift up one corner of the heatsink and apply more thermal paste before pressing it back down again. Repeat this until all air bubbles have been removed from underneath the heatsink.
  • Now that everything is properly secured and in place, let’s give it a final check by gently tugging at each corner of the cooler – if it doesn’t come off easily then we know it has been properly secured!

It’s also recommended that you double-check your work by consulting your motherboard manual for specified torque requirements for securing hardware components safely – exceeding these limits could lead to damaged parts or worse still an unstable system!

7. Testing for Leaks After Applying The Thermal Paste

Now that the CPU heatsink is secured, it’s time to test for any leaks from the thermal paste. Take a look and make sure everything looks good before powering up your system!

To check for any potential issues, use a tissue or cloth to wipe off any excess thermal paste. This will help identify if there are any gaps or uneven distribution of the thermal paste on the surface of the CPU heatsink. Make sure to be gentle and not press too hard as this could damage your equipment.

If you find that there are some gaps or unevenness in the application of thermal paste, apply more until you get an even coat across the entire surface. It may take several applications before it is completely uniformed and secure. Be careful not to overdo it as too much thermal paste can cause more harm than good by blocking air flow or creating an excessive heat buildup.

8. Stress Test

We recommend stress testing the CPU for at least an hour to make sure it isn’t overheating. 

For this, you can use software like Burn-in Test or Cinebench.

Considerations Before Cleaning the Thermal paste

Before attempting to remove the thermal paste, consider how much time and effort it’ll take to do so properly. If you’re not familiar with cleaning off thermal paste, it can be a tricky job that requires patience. It’s important to think through the process before diving in headfirst.

You want to make sure you have all of the necessary materials on hand and know exactly what steps need to be taken for the clean-up job. The most important factor when it comes to cleaning off thermal paste is having enough time set aside for the task. Depending on how much needs to be removed, this could take several hours or even longer. Additionally, if there are any stubborn deposits of thermal paste that won’t come off easily, extra time may need to be allotted for those spots as well.

You also need to make sure you have all of the right tools and supplies before starting your project. This includes different types of cleaners such as alcohol or acetone, cotton swabs or Q-tips, paper towels or rags, toothpicks and/or plastic cards like a credit card or ID card for scraping away dried up bits of thermal paste from difficult-to-reach areas. Having these items ready ahead of time will help ensure that your clean up project runs smoothly and efficiently without any hiccups along the way.

Finally, make sure you understand all safety precautions involved in handling chemicals such as alcohol — wear gloves if needed — before beginning your project. Working in a well ventilated area is also recommended since some fumes may be present while cleaning off thermal paste from CPU components. Taking care while handling chemicals and preparing yourself with proper safety equipment can save headaches later down the line during your clean up attempt!

Potential Problems After Cleaning the Thermal paste

Having finished the laborious task of cleaning away the adhesive compound, one must be cognizant of any potential issues that may arise. If not done correctly, improper thermal paste application can lead to overheating of components and system instability which can cause long-term damage.

  • It is important to always ensure that all remaining paste residue has been removed from the surface before reapplying a new layer. This is especially important when dealing with more complex cooling systems such as liquid cooling devices or multiple heat sinks on larger CPUs.
  • A common issue after cleaning thermal paste off a CPU is an uneven surface left behind by the previous layer of adhesive. This will create hot spots in certain areas of the CPU and result in inadequate heat transfer. To solve this problem, it’s best to use a lint-free cloth and some rubbing alcohol or other suitable solvent to carefully buff away any residual material before re-application of new paste.
  • It’s also essential to make sure that you have applied enough thermal paste onto your processor; too little will mean insufficient heat transfer while too much will cause excessive temperatures leading to permanent damage if left unchecked for prolonged periods of time. Additionally, it’s important to note that there are different types of thermal compounds available for various applications – so make sure you select the right type for your specific device!

The key takeaway here is that proper maintenance and care should be taken when handling sensitive electronics like CPUs – no matter how experienced you may be with computers! Taking extra precautions such as being aware of potential problems after cleaning thermal paste off a CPU goes a long way in ensuring optimal functionality and longevity over time.

Tips for Applying Thermal Paste

You’ll want to make sure you take the time to apply your new thermal paste correctly in order to get the best performance from your computer. It’s important when it comes to cooling and protecting your CPU that you do a thorough job of applying thermal paste. Here are some tips for getting the job done right:

Tip Explanation
Clean Surface Thoroughly Use compressed air and isopropyl alcohol before applying any thermal paste, otherwise it may not adhere properly.
Thin Layer Only Applying too much or too little can decrease efficiency, so try to spread a thin even layer across the entire surface area of the CPU.
Make Sure It’s Spread Evenly Take care that the layer is evenly spread – use a lint-free cloth or card if necessary – and be sure not to create any air pockets.
Don’t Touch Thermal Paste with Fingers Skin oils on your fingers can degrade thermal paste over time, so make sure you don’t come into contact with it during application!

By following these guidelines, you should have no problem ensuring optimal performance from your CPU after installing new thermal paste. As long as you take all necessary steps for proper installation and maintenance, there shouldn’t be any issues with overheating or damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can we remove Thermal paste without Alcohol?

We can actually use paper towels or even just our fingers to remove old thermal paste from the CPU lid. This method requires a bit more time and effort than using alcohol, as we’ll have to be gentle when wiping off the old paste so as not to damage any components.

Additionally, this process can get a bit messy with all the debris created by wiping off the old paste. But overall, it’s much safer than using an alcohol solution which could potentially damage other parts of your computer if mishandled. Plus, this is also a cost-effective option since you won’t need to buy any cleaning solutions.

Can we use Acetone to Remove the Thermal paste?

Acetone isn’t the best choice for wiping away your processor’s sticky residue – it can quickly melt plastic and strip away any markings, so it’s best to avoid it! Rubbing alcohol is a much safer alternative when removing thermal paste from your CPU.

Not only does rubbing alcohol make cleaning up easier, but it also won’t damage delicate components like acetone can. Plus, it evaporates quickly and leaves no residue behind.

How to clean thermal paste off motherboard?

You can use Isopropyl Alcohol to clean thermal paste off your motherboard.

How much thermal paste on CPU?

Carefully apply a minimal amount of thermal compound, about the size of a pea, to the center of the integrated heat spreader for optimal cooling results. This is an essential step in ensuring your computer’s efficiency and longevity.

Make sure that you evenly distribute the thermal paste across the IHS surface so as to maximize its effectiveness. You don’t want too much or too little; it needs to be just enough so that it forms an even layer over your processor. The best way to apply it is by using a plastic card, such as a credit card or driver’s license, and spreading the paste across the IHS in one smooth motion.

How to clean thermal paste off CPU pins?

You’ll need the right tools to get that sticky thermal stuff off your processor pins, so grab a soft-bristled toothbrush, some isopropyl alcohol, and a paper towel.

If you’re using a pinhole socket (PGA) connector like AMD does for most of their chips, then use the toothbrush soaked in isopropyl alcohol to gently scrape away the thermal paste from inside of the processor outward. Make sure to change out the alcohol when it gets dirty or else it won’t be as effective.

When you’re done scraping everything away, let the CPU dry for two minutes before moving on.

If you have an LGA connector like Intel uses, then things get much easier. Since there are no pins on the underside of these CPUs, all you need is a specialized wiping solution and some elbow grease. This specialized solution will make cleaning up thermal paste much simpler; just grab a cloth and go to town! Make sure not to press too hard though or else you risk damaging your precious hardware.

Afterwards, give everything one last wipe down with either paper towels or more of the solution and your CPU should be all squeaky clean!

It’s important to make sure everything is completely clean before putting new thermal paste on; otherwise it won’t transfer heat effectively and could lead to your processor overheating quickly.

Now that you know how to properly clean off thermal paste from both PGA and LGA connectors your PC can stay running smoothly for years!


We’ve gone through all the steps to clean thermal paste off your CPU and now it’s time to wrap things up!

We started by prepping the area and gathering supplies, then removing the CPU cooler so we could access the old thermal paste.

After that, we removed the old thermal paste from the CPU itself before giving it a good clean.

Then, we looked at whether acetone was an option for cleaning off thermal paste and how to clean off any residue on the motherboard.

Finally, we discussed how much thermal paste you should use when applying it to your CPU as well as how to clean off any residue on pins.

All in all, with a bit of patience and some elbow grease, you can get your CPU looking like new again!

I am a computer engineer holding a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, complemented by a Master's in Business Administration from University of Strathclyde, Scotland. I currently work as a Senior IT Consultant in Melbourne, Australia. With over 15 years of...