How To Clean Dried Thermal Paste?


Is it possible to clean dried thermal paste by yourself? Yes, it is. If you are sure, you can do it gently without scraping the top of the CPU. 

What is thermal paste?

Thermal paste is usually used in CPU and CPU cooler to prevent them from overheating. Thermal paste reduces heat as it is a thermally conductive compound. It allows transferring heat between two surfaces, thus eliminating air gaps and cooling down the system. 

How to clean dried thermal paste off CPU?

Now, thermal paste in the CPU is applied and reapplied if there are overheating issues. If you need to reapply the thermal paste, you must first clean the dried thermal paste off the CPU surface. 

Before cleaning the dried thermal paste, the CPU cooler should be removed. 

Things you will need

  • A microfiber cloth/ paper towels
  • Soft-bristled toothbrush
  • 90% or above isopropyl alcohol

Steps to follow:

Step 1: remove the power

Before touching your CPU component, the device is disconnected from all sorts of power sources. The computer should be shut down, and the socket should be removed for ultimate security. 

Step 2: Open the CPU and clean it 

Open your CPU and lay it flat on the surface such that the CPU level up is facing you. 

If you have access to the user manual that comes with the device, use it to identify and remove some of the parts to access the processor within the CPU. 

Step 3: Remove the CPU

Remove the CPU fan and clean with the soft-bristled brush away from the rest of the unit. Clean any dust you see in the unit. 

Step 4: Clean the CPU unit

Now that you have access to the processor/CPU, use a soft and dry microfiber cloth to remove any dust over it. This should be done as softly and lightly as you can. 

Step 5: Use a cotton swab and isopropyl alcohol/rubbing alcohol

Now, take a cotton swab and dip it in the rubbing alcohol. Wipe it over the surface of the thermal paste to break it up. Once it starts breaking up, use the microfiber towel to brush off the dry paste. 

Make sure you do not scratch the surface in the process. Do not let the dry thermal paste spill on the sides of the processor. 

If it is spilled sideways, clean it thoroughly with the help of a dry cotton swab and microfiber cloth. 

Step 6: Clean the underside of the CPU cooler

Repeat the same process to clean the underside of the CPU cooler. Use a cotton swab to clean the thermal paste off it. 

You should never leave the CPU without reapplying the thermal paste again. Once it’s cleaned thoroughly, wait for a while before applying the thermal paste again. 

Once the thermal paste is applied successfully, you can reassemble your computer. 

You can remove and reapply thermal paste if you tried and succeeded when your CPU is overheating. If you find the thermal paste is dried up and cracking, you can replace it with a new thermal paste for better performance. 

How to Remove Thermal Paste From CPU

Q&A

Should I clean off old thermal paste?

If you’re looking at some thermal paste and it looks even a little dried out or old, it’s a good practice to get in the habit of cleaning it off and replacing the paste.

What dissolves thermal paste?

Hydrocarbon and alcohol-based solvents with 10-15% or less water by volume work well. Apply the solvent to something lint-free like a cloth or coffee filter and then rub off the thermal compound. A good solvent will make the thermal paste dissolve quickly and rub off very easily.

Is dried thermal paste OK?

Dry paste actually is worse than no paste at all. Clean the old paste and temporary you can use a tooth paste – it will dry out rather quickly, but for a day or two it will be ok.

How do I clean old thermal paste off CPU?

Using an isopropyl alcohol wipe, gently wipe the thermal paste off the surface. Wipe in a straight line. Repeat this process until the thermal paste is gone, using a new wipe each time. Leave it to dry for around an hour.

Can I remove thermal paste without alcohol?

How to Clean Thermal Paste off CPU without Alcohol

Can you clean thermal paste with nail polish remover?

I would not recommend doing that, the acetone derivatives can be very harmful. Rather, just use rubbing alcohol. Or better yet, just use dry paper towels to remove the old material. Most thermal compound can be removed without any liquid cleaners being applied.

Can I use 70 alcohol to remove thermal paste?

Yes, you can use rubbing alcohol to remove your CPU’s thermal paste, but you’ll want to use isopropyl alcohol to do it because of its superior properties as a solvent.

Can I use water to clean thermal paste?

You should NOT do it. Unless you like running into the risk of killing your motherboard and cpu. At best, you could just rub it off with tissue paper, then take a tiny drop of water to an other tissue paper and make sure to only touch the heatspreader with it.

How do you soften dried thermal paste?

Stack them on top of each other, place on the area (heatsink/chip) and pour fingernail polish remover (acetone) into the cotton pads, get them nice soaked. Now find something to cover the cotton pads with to keep the moisture in and let it sit for an hour or.

What happens if your thermal paste dries?

The idea behind thermal paste is to fill up the tiny gaps between the two metal surfaces, the CPU and the heatsink. The paste transfers heat much better than air does, but it’s still not nearly as good as metal. When it dries, it can be crumbly (leaving air pockets), so the gaps aren’t filled as well.

How do you revive thermal paste?

You’ll need rubbing alcohol and a microfiber cloth to get the task done. Apply a tiny bit of rubbing alcohol straight to the cloth and rub the thermal paste off the CPU.

Can I use alcohol wipes to clean thermal paste?

Yes I know, you can achieve the same thing with paper towels and rubbing alcohol. However it’s just so convenient being able to tear open a pack of wipes, and clean the thermal paste off your IHS and heatsink…

What does rubbing alcohol do to clean a CPU?

This can be done with isopropyl alcohol and either cotton swabs or a cloth.

Can I use hydrogen peroxide to clean thermal paste?

I would use rubbing alcohol. I would recommend against using hydrogen peroxide…..

Can I use vinegar to remove thermal paste?

No, you should only use rubbing/isopropyl alcohol for cleaning CPUs.

Can I use paper towel to remove thermal paste?

Since you might be reading this with a phone in one hand and a messy CPU in the other, I’m going to cut to the chase: The easiest way to clean up old thermal paste is a paper towel.

Can you clean thermal paste with acetone?

Acetone will attack a large number of polymers so I would strongly advise against using it because it may attack the plastic components and other parts of your PC. Isopropyl alcohol, denatured ethyl alcohol, and non-lubricating electronic contact cleaner all work well.

Can I use toothpaste instead of thermal paste?

Toothpaste is also an excellent substitute for thermal paste. Its structure decays after a few days, especially if the operating temperatures are high.

What happens if you don’t clean thermal paste?

For this reason, you need to apply the paste when necessary constantly. So, What Happens If You Don’t Use Thermal Paste? Not applying a thermal face between heat sink and CPU can cause the device to overheat, leading to eventual failure.

Andy Avery

I really enjoy helping people with their tech problems to make life easier, ​and that’s what I’ve been doing professionally for the past decade.

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