How to Remove Thermal Paste? (From CPU)


If you’ve built a gaming rig on your own in the past, you’re most likely familiar with why thermal paste is so important.

The CPU cooler you have installed on top of the processor vents out the heat and keeps it cool.

If you are a first time builder, applying thermal paste might look easy at first glance.

But thermal paste can dry out over the years, and that can lead to the processor overheating.

The solution to this is removing the dried thermal paste and applying fresh thermal paste.

But if you’re a beginner PC builder who doesn’t fully understand that process, we’ve got you covered.

Let’s find out the quickest and cleanest way to remove the thermal paste from the CPU.

What Do You Need?

Removing thermal paste isn’t exactly the most difficult thing in the world.

But you do require a few materials for the process.

The first thing you should grab is a microfiber cloth.

You might have heard that people just use regular old paper towels, but we highly recommend against that because paper towels or tissues can leave behind residue.

As for the liquid that you’ll use to clean the thermal paste, it’s recommended using 99% isopropyl alcohol as it evaporates swiftly and doesn’t leave behind any sort of residue.

But what if you don’t have access to it and want to know how to remove thermal paste without alcohol?

Well, we don’t recommend just any other liquid you can find in your home, and regular water is out of the picture.

Arctic Silver’s ArctiClean is the best solution out there, as it’s purpose made to clean off the thermal paste. (Apart from that there really isn’t a foolproof way to remove thermal paste without alcohol.)

ArctiClean – Thermal Paste Remover

An anti-static bracelet would be ideal but isn’t exactly necessary.

As the name itself implies, this prevents any static from being built up in your body, which could potentially damage the motherboard.

Again, it’s not obligatory but these bracelets are cheap, so better be safe than sorry.

There is also the option of buying the Arctic Silver 5 kit.

Arctic Silver 5 Kit

This comes with the cleaner, a microfiber cloth, and an anti-static wrist strap.

Plus, you get the Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste, which is arguably the best thermal paste out there.

The Cleaning Process

Okay, so you’ve gathered all the materials and you’re ready to completely clean your processor and heatsink.

We’re going to talk about the processor first, then we’ll move on to the heatsink.

  • First off you’re going to notice that the thermal paste may have dried up quite a bit, leaving behind small solid chunks.
dried thermal paste on processor
The dried thermal paste on the processor!
  • This can mostly be removed with the dry microfiber cloth. (However, if you run into trouble, you can use a spudger or something flat that won’t scratch the surface to clean it off.)
  • After that, apply a small amount of isopropyl alcohol to the microfiber cloth, and gently clean off the surface of the CPU. (Isopropyl alcohol does a really good job at quickly cleaning away thermal paste.)
  • Once the surface looks shiny and brand new, our job here is done.

Before we move on, there’s one last thing we want to mention.

Sometimes dried up thermal paste can find its way into the CPU socket and potentially damage the CPU pins.

So if you’re wondering how to remove the thermal paste from your motherboard and CPU socket/pins both, don’t panic and follow these details below:

First off, we want to warn you that this process is very delicate so do it at your own risk. (We are not liable for any damage.)

Removing thermal paste from the CPU pins isn’t easy, and it requires the right tool.

  • You can use thin Q-tips to carefully clean the affected area.
  • But don’t touch the areas which aren’t affected.
  • The same goes for the motherboard.

What About The Heatsink?

Before you remove the thermal paste from the heatsink or cooler, we recommend you to clean the dust that can accumulate on the vents as well.

Removing thermal paste from heat sink

You can skip that part if you’ll be installing a new heatsink.

As for the cleaning process, it’s pretty much the same as the processor itself.


That’s pretty much all there is to it.

Hopefully, this brief guide helped you out and you won’t struggle with cleaning thermal paste in the future.


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