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How to Clean Thermal Paste Off CPU?

Since childhood, we are learning that whenever there is a flow of current from any resistive element or a good conductor of electricity, heat generates. As the heat is produced in excessive amounts, this leads to performance failure or sometimes permanent damage to the device. Similarly, this happens with our computers or laptops also.

In a computer, we have a CPU, that operates the complete system for us and hence gets heated. To prevent any device failure, we need a proper Heat management procedure. For this, we have to use a substance called Thermal paste in our CPU. If you explore the world of computers, then the thermal paste is not a new word for you.

In this article, I would like to draw attention to How to clean thermal paste off CPU, also I will give you information related to it. So if you really want to protect your CPU from any failure, just stay here and read the full article.


Before knowing how to clean thermal paste off CPU the question that has to be answered is what thermal paste is. Thermal paste, commonly known as Thermal compound, CPU paste, thermal grease, heat paste, thermal gel, and thermal interface material (TIM), is an insulating chemical compound that acts as an interface between heat sinks and heat sources like semiconductor devices. It is a silver substance that must be thermally applied to a processor before installing a cooling station because it allows efficient transfer of heat from the Integrated Heat Spreader (IHS) to the water block of the CPU cooler to consume heat and to eliminate air gaps.

Thermal paste never gives any mechanical strength to the bond shared by the heat source and heat sink. It has to be linked with the mechanical fixation method.

Composition of Thermal Paste

After this section, you can easily answer the questions like what is thermal paste made up of or what are the types of thermal paste.

Let me tell you that Thermal paste mainly comprises of polymerizable liquid matrix and thermally conductive fillers. It also consists of typical matrix materials like epoxies, silicones (silicone grease), urethanes, and acrylates. To make thermal greases the chemicals that are used as fillers are Aluminium oxide, boron nitride, zinc oxide, and progressively Aluminium nitride.

There are many types of thermal compounds like- silver thermal grease, which consists mainly of silver particles hanging up in a silicone/ceramic medium.

Metal-based thermal grease is mainly electrically potential and resistive. If it flows onto the circuits, it leads to damage.

At last, the most expensive as well as effective thermal paste consists of mainly liquid metal usually a form of alloy galinstan. But these pastes cannot be used on aluminum heat sinks because of gallium, a highly corrosive to aluminum. These pastes cannot be evenly spread due to spillage.

How Thermal Paste Can be Used?

How thermal paste can be used or what are the uses of thermal paste? The answer to this question is quite noticeable because the thermal paste is used to better the heat pairing between many components. Its topmost use is to wash away waste heat that is generated by electrical resistance in many semiconductor devices like power transistors, CPUs, GPU’s and LED CLOB’s. And to use these devices properly and to protect them from the total failure of the device because of the heat failure we need to cool down these devices and for it, Thermal paste is required-(Need to apply Thermal paste).

Why is Thermal Paste Applied?

As we came to know that thermal paste is a very important part of the PC building process. So, the very next question that comes into your mind is why is thermal paste applied? Thermal paste is applied on top of the IHS of the CPU so that there will be no air gaps between that and the metal base of the CPU cooler. The thermal grease helps to fill the air gaps that are formed due to tiny imperfections on the surface of the IHS and the cooler so that there will be an efficient transfer of heat. In this way, thermal paste helps you to keep your CPU cool.

How to Apply Thermal Paste?

In addition, to know about thermal paste how can you forget about the process to reapply thermal paste or how thermal paste is reapplied to the CPU? To know this better, follow the following steps:

  1. Just read all the necessary information before starting so that the process of applying thermal paste goes smoother.
  2. Apply only a small amount of paste basically the size of a grain of rice should be applied at the center of IHS. If your CPU has already thermal paste pre-applied to your CPU, then please skip this step.
  3. In the third step, keep the cooler in the proper place as you fix it to the motherboard diagonally by securing screws, and drawing an “X” with them. Never fully tighten the screws until you got attached all the four screws. Then before going to the next step turn each screw a few times to ensure pressure.
  4. In the last step, ensures that the base plate or water block of the CPU cooler is tightly attached and no thermal paste is spilling over the edges or anywhere on the motherboard, so now everything looks correct. And if the cooler doesn’t move when you touched it, then the process completes.

How to Clean Thermal Paste?

Cleaning of thermal paste basically needs after 3 to 5 years. For this, you need to remove the previous thermal paste. Other reasons to clean thermal paste or reapply it can be that you are removing the CPU cooler or the original thermal paste was applied poorly and the CPU is running at a very high temperature.

So let’s find out How to clean thermal paste off CPU. 

Before starting the cleaning process, the things that you should have to be kept ready are:  Microfiber cloth, Isopropyl Alcohol, toilet paper, cotton swabs, and thermal paste.

Cleaning off thermal paste requires:

Remove the CPU cooler

To remove the CPU, you will need to remove the CPU cooler as described below:

  1. Cold thermal paste keeps the CPU and heat sink cemented together. So let your computer run for 15 minutes, by doing this thermal paste gets softened and it will make it easier to remove the CPU.
  2. Switching off everything and unplugging the CPU cooler power cord.
  3. Loosen all the cooler’s bolts/clips.
  4. Kindly twist the cooler back and forth until it loses. During this process, make sure not to pull up on the heat sink, otherwise, your CPU pins can get damaged.
  5. Nonstock coolers have different mechanisms and are no longer very difficult to remove,
  6. Now the heat sink can easily come off.
  7. If the heat sink is still stuck, run your computer again, but for one hour this time.

How to clean thermal paste off CPU

 Now let’s learn how to clean thermal paste off CPU. The steps involved are:-

  1. To remove any kind of loose chunks, kindly rub at the old thermal paste with the help of a dry microfiber cloth.
  2. Apply a small amount of any kind of solution you want to your microfiber cloth (Isopropyl alcohol or thermal paste cleaner). 
  3. In order to protect CPU, Softly and gently wipe the CPU from top to bottom, so there will be no thermal paste visible. Also, wipe around the edges.
  4. The last step is to let the CPU dry and the time it takes to dry clearly depends on the solution you used.
  5. After this the next step is to clean off any thermal paste stuck to the heat sink, just follow the steps mentioned above.

How to reapply Thermal paste?

Reapplying thermal paste is already I have mentioned in my section how to apply thermal paste. Just go through it and follow the steps accordingly.

When Will Thermal Paste Get Expired?

Like any other item- food or medicine, the thermal paste also has a time period. The lifespan of a thermal paste totally depends on the manufacturers because different manufacturers use different mixtures and syringes to make it. In general, they have a lifespan of 3 to 5 years. Also, the lifespan of thermal paste depends on the last time you applied thermal paste on your CPU and placed it at the right temperature with air tight seal, and then it should still be good and go for a little time longer.


The thermal paste helps the CPU to cool down when running at a high temperature. Cleaning and applying new thermal paste requires some attention if you are doing it for the very first time because it can damage your CPU, if not done properly. Having a lifespan of 3-5 years thermal paste needs to be replaced. So think of the last time you replaced your thermal paste, if you don’t remember it then GO and get it done.

About the author


Shelly is an avid reader, and the love of reading takes her to content writing eventually. She loves writing on various topics.

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