How to Clean PC Heatsink?


How do you clean the PC heatsink? Keep on reading to find out properly cleaning this PC part without damaging your PC itself!

The heatsink of your PC is responsible for keeping your PC cool, among other features like vents and a fan to help lower the temperature when push comes to shove. Due to these open vents, dust can gather around the heatsink, leading to it getting dirty and less effective at its heat absorption.

If you want to know how to clean pc heatsink without damaging the internal circuitry and parts of your desktop or laptop PC then keep on reading to find out!

How to Clean PC Heatsink

There’s more than one way to clean the PC heatsink, but the simplest way involves taking it out of where it’s installed then put it in hot soapy water. Let the heatsink soak for a while, especially if it has caked-in dirt. Actually, manually remove the caked-in dirt first then wash the rest in the water.

After soaking, rinse off then get some good flow between the heatsink fins to get rid of the sticky gunk for sure. Let the heatsink dry for a whole day or so. You should be good to go afterwards.

What about “Dry” Cleaning?

If the heatsink isn’t as dirty or doesn’t have as much wet gunk on it that requires watery rinsing with “extra wet” soap water (soap breaks down water surface tension that allows it to rinse things better or mix with things like oil), you “dry” clean your heatsink with a blast of compressed air.

  • Disassemble: It’s better to still disassemble the heatsink then blast it with a can of compressed air so that the dust doesn’t end up in your other sensitive PC components like your motherboard, video card, sound card, graphics card, CPU, and so forth.
  • Vacuum: Many guides warn against using a vacuum because it can eventually damage your PC rig when push comes to shove. You can use it lightly on your keyboard or to clear dust in your table, but your PC parts might suffer from vacuuming.

You may also like: How to Clean a CPU Fan Without Removing It.

It Depends on How Dirty the Heatsink Is

It’s safe to clean your heatsink with soap and water, but have the common sense of taking it off the motherboard and CPU first! We’re stating this commonsensical fact regardless because some people are true novices about this and might actually put running water on their PC!

  • Spray Quickly: It’s also fine to take your PC case outside every month to spray compressed air in multiple angles. To avoid dust-based scratching, you should spray the air into the fans and vents briefly or not to long, which makes them spin up too fast and get damaged.
  • Use CPU Cooler Spray: Instead of using compressed air for your heatsink, you should instead spray what’s known as the CPU cooler spray. Also spray briefly at different angles to get the dust out of the gills of your heastink.

Q&A

Can you wash your heatsink?

Yes, no problem. Sink, hot soapy water. Let it soak for a while. Rinse off, getting a good flow in between all the fins to wash away all the gunk.

How often should I clean my heat sink?

Start cleaning on a monthly basis. The cleaning frequency will depend on the environment the computer is located in (room). More important is the cleaning of the CPU heatsink fins; this is where a lot of dust accumulates and affects heat transfer. Use a can of compressed air and do it carefully.

What can I use to clean my heatsink?

Dip a cotton swab in alcohol, and then use it to remove dirt and dust between the small metal fins of the heatsink. Clean the remaining surface of the heatsink with the lint-free cloth and alcohol.

Can you clean laptop heatsink?

To clean a laptop fan and heatsink fins correctly, you may need a compressed air can or air blower, an airbrush compressor, and a compound like isopropyl alcohol. The cleaning will rid your laptop of dust bunnies and other dirt in the fan fins and heat sink.

How can I dust my PC?

Use a lint-free cloth or can of compressed air to clean the dust from any dust filters, as well as any obvious collections in the base of the case. Use a can of compressed air—we don’t recommend trying to blow forcefully yourself—to clean the dust from any heatsinks like your CPU or graphics card cooler.

How do you clean aluminum heat sink?

Soak the heatsink fins for a certain time for the oily layer to dissolve. Take it out and rinse with water. Then, immediately dry with hair dryer. A 3rd alternative is to use a can of air conditioner cleaner which is well formulated for this type of task.

How often should you dust your gaming PC?

Heat is your computer’s worst enemy. Over time, dust buildup inside your computer could undermine its cooling efficiency, resulting in shorter life spans for your computer’s components. To help keep your computer running cool, clean the inside of your computer every 6 to 12 months.

How do I clean my laptop heat pipe?

  1. Remove the bottom cover. Please use an old card or thin plastic tool separate the bottom cover from the palmrest assembly.
  2. Disconnect the battery cable from the motherboard.
  3. Remove the cooling fan and heat sink.
  4. Clean the fan and heat sink.
  5. Remove thermal grease from CPU and GPU.
  6. Apply thermal grease to the CPU and GPU.

Can RAM be cleaned?

Normally, dusting out the inside of your company’s computers on a monthly basis (more if the environment is unusually dusty) is sufficient to keep RAM modules clean, but if the need arises you can also clean the contacts with rubbing alcohol.

How do you clean heatsink fins?

Using a paintbrush, gently brush the dirt build-up between fins. Do the same with the fans. Like the base, dampen a piece of cloth of tissue paper with isopropyl alcohol and wipe the cooler’s top fin and heat pipes to remove dirt and fingerprints.

How do I polish my laptop heatsink?

How do I polish my laptop heatsink?

  1. Remove the bottom cover.
  2. Disconnect the motherboard battery cable.
  3. Remove the heat sink and cooling fan.
  4. Clean the fan and sink heat.
  5. Remove CPU and GPU thermal grease.
  6. Apply CPU and GPU thermal grease.

How do I clean my laptop CPU cooler?

How to clean the vent or fan on a notebook computer.

  1. Clean the vents with a clean, soft cloth or cotton swab.
  2. Vacuum the vents with a handheld vac or dusting attachment on a household vacuum cleaner.
  3. Blow the dust out of the vents using compressed air (available at most computer and electronics stores).

How do I clean the copper heatsink on my laptop?

Ketchup and a toothbrush, put the copper parts in a bowl, let it soak for an hour. Then gently scrub away. Thin stains on the CPU side are common, they are fine left as is. If the fins are gunky, wash under the sink, use a paintbrush to get in the cracks.

Can I vacuum my PC?

The best way to clean a computer

Use canned air to dust your computer. Canned air is easy to use and is available at most computer and office supply stores. Don’t use a vacuum cleaner. A vacuum can create static electricity that can damage computer components.

Can I use a microfiber cloth to clean my PC?

Tools and Cleaning Supplies

Microfiber cloths will not damage your screen or computer but do an excellent job cleaning delicate areas. Shop Now. Isopropyl Alcohol – When you need to remove stickers or clean anywhere on your PC that cannot be exposed to moisture, isopropyl alcohol is perfect.

Can I use a hair dryer to clean my PC?

No, just no. Don’t do that. Go get some compressed air like a civilized person. Every other possible thing aside, the broad expanse of air that comes out of a hair dryer compared to a can of compressed air is just going to move stuff around a bit more than a fan would.

Can compressed air damage PC?

Compressed (canned) air will do absolutely zero damage to your computer, even if you get the refrigerant (the stuff that blows out the nozzle when the can is sideways or upside-down) on your CPU/GPU/RAM/Motherboard.

Can I use compressed air to clean my PC?

Yes, you can use canned air, it makes short work of what can be a messy task. Your PC is like a vacuum cleaner sucking in air and blowing it out all the time it is running.

Does dust affect PC performance?

The build-up of dust can (and surely does) impact your computer’s performance for two main reasons: it causes the components of your computer to retain heat and it makes it more difficult for the internal fans to dissipate heat from the system, thereby decreasing the efficiency of the entire system.

The Final Judgment

You might need to only clean the heatsink but you might as well clean the fan along with it for good measure. You can save a lot of money on labor by learning how to do this yourself. Or you can have a technician teach it to you. Otherwise, have someone you trust do it at an affordable price.

It’s pretty simple to do when push comes to shove but many non-tech-savvy people who don’t know how to take apart and put back together their PC will have someone else do it for them.

References:

  1. Cleaning CPU fan/heatsink“, Tom’s Hardware Forums, December 5, 2012
  2. Can I clean my CPU heatsink with water?“, Tom’s Hardware Forums, July 2, 2018
  3. FAQ: How should I clean my Noctua cooler?“, Noctua.at, Retrieved May 10, 2022

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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