How To Clean Thermal Paste From CPU

Want to put some new thermal paste on your CPU? You need to remove the old thermal paste carefully. Here's a simple guide on how to do that.

It is no secret that a desktop PC has to be upgraded from time to time to ensure that you stay up-to-date with the latest games. Those upgrades don’t come too often, but changing the CPU and GPU every 4-5 years is necessary. Of course, necessary only if you want to play the most demanding games.

However, changing a CPU requires a bit of PC-building knowledge. It’s not as easy as swapping out a GPU. Although even that can be difficult if you don’t have any previous experience whatsoever.

With the process of changing a CPU comes the task of cleaning the thermal paste off it and the heatsink/cooler too.

To ensure that the old thermal paste is completely removed, we’ll explain the best techniques to do so.

Table of ContentsShow

What You Will Need

Intel CPU with thermal paste

Before we get started with the cleaning process, there are a few things you should have at hand.

  • Microfiber cloth – best used for cleaning as it leaves no residue and minimalizes scratching
  • Isopropyl Alcohol –  thermal paste reacts great with alcohol, making it much easier to clean it up. Additionally, alcohol is a covalent compound, meaning that it isn’t electrically conductive
  • Toilet paper – toilet paper may not be as soft and good as microfiber cloth, but it is still a solid alternative, and its great for the first few wipes when there’s still a lot of thermal paste
  • Cotton swabs– Not mandatory, but very useful for the final finishing touches.
  • Thermal paste – you’ll need thermal paste after you’re done cleaning the old batch

That’s about it! If you have these items, you are ready to start.

Removing The Cooler

Intel CPU with cooler

First things first!

If you’re upgrading your CPU, you will need to remove the heatsink/cooler from your PC.

If it is an air cooler, the removal process should be pretty easy. Remove the four screws with each of them located at every corner of the CPU and you should be able to pull it out.

AIOs or liquid coolers can be a bit more complicated. But, they usually rep those same four screws at the corners with a radiator attached to the PC case too.

Cleaning The CPU

Intel CPU

With the heatsink removed, it’s time to get cleaning!

Grab some toilet paper, leave it dry, and wipe off some of the excess thermal paste. Do a few dry swipes with toilet paper to ensure that you won’t smudge it around later when you’ll use alcohol.

After that, you can get the microfiber cloth, if you have one, if not, you can continue using toilet paper.

Dip some of the alcohol onto the cloth or the toilet paper. With slow and smooth movements, starting wiping the CPU. It will take a couple of isopropyl alcohol dips before the CPU’s IHS is completely clean.

Don’t worry, getting it to look pristine is not always possible as the thermal paste can sometimes stain the CPU, so don’t bother scrubbing too much.

Finally, you can grab a few cotton swabs, dip them with the isopropyl alcohol to clean all the difficult to get to spots.

With that done, it’s time to turn your attention to the cooler.

Cleaning The Cooler

If your plan is to reuse the same cooler you have been using until now, it is important to clean off the thermal paste from the heatsink too.

The process is practically the same. A few wipes with toilet paper, wiping with the alcohol dampened microfiber cloth, cotton swab swipes and you’re ready to start using your computer.

But, wait! First, you’ll have to add the thermal paste to ensure proper thermal conductivity between the cooler and the CPU.

Applying Thermal Paste

How To Apply Thermal Paste To A CPU

Applying the thermal paste to a processor is easier than you probably think, but it is still better to do some research than going at it alone. It’s also important to have a high-quality thermal paste ready for the best performance.

Fortunately for you, we already have an informative and extensive guide on how to properly apply thermal paste to a CPU.

Here’s the short version:

  1. Pull the cap off the thermal paste syringe
  2. Slowly and steadily push the thermal paste onto the CPU
  3. The simplest way requires you to push a pea-sized dot onto the middle of the processor
  4. Add the heatsink, and start tightening the screws diagonally to ensure the pressure as even as possible.


You can now finally plug in your computer and turn it on. Enjoy the power of your new CPU or the cooling of your new heatsink.

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Branko Gapo
Branko Gapo

Keeping up with the incredibly fast evolution of computer technology is almost impossible. That's why Branko will be using his knowledge on this matter to share news and information on all the latest essential technological innovations and advancements related to CPUs.