Question Is it safe to clean AIO Water Cooling Radiator using vacuum?

Oct 1, 2020
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It's been almost a year i got my first PC and it's cooling performance have been degrading with time, and i think it's because i didn't clean my radiator thoroughly (I always use a paint brush to clean it and blow it with my mouth), and i'm way too much of a newbie in PC hardware maintenance to clean the radiator with water and i don't have those water-shooty-thingies. In other words, i'm too afraid to involve water into the equation. So is it fine if i use vacuum cleaner to clean my radiator? Although, i've heard that vacuum builds up static electricity and could potentially fry my PC.
 
It's been almost a year i got my first PC and it's cooling performance have been degrading with time, and i think it's because i didn't clean my radiator thoroughly (I always use a paint brush to clean it and blow it with my mouth), and i'm way too much of a newbie in PC hardware maintenance to clean the radiator with water and i don't have those water-shooty-thingies. In other words, i'm too afraid to involve water into the equation. So is it fine if i use vacuum cleaner to clean my radiator? Although, i've heard that vacuum builds up static electricity and could potentially fry my PC.
If you have such a build up of dust in the radiator then remove it and use Compressed air from a canister. A vacuum won't get at pockets of dust deep down.
Best and safest method would be to dismount the AIO HS and at the same time replace your TIM.
 

Phaaze88

Glorious
Ambassador
A)You can use water, as long as it's dried out thoroughly afterwards.

B)I actually use a vacuum to clean my gpu's hybrid cooler, but perhaps I'm pushing my luck. I've done it 3 times so far, but I also haven't had that cooler very long - just 3 months.
I take the entire unit out of my PC, go to another room to use the vacuum, clean away!, and discharge myself while holding the unit, before installing it in the PC.
I started doing it because I found those darn compressed cans to be cheap crap; they're a waste of cash with how quickly the pressure drops and they freeze up.
Those Data Vacs? Those are vacuums too, but portable, and I find their quality also questionable. Besides, I already have a household vac, so no need to buy another one.

C)Compressed air: lose pressure and freeze up rather quickly - they become rather useless after a few minutes of use, and they're more expensive than they seem.
I do most of my PC cleaning by hand, so screw those things.

Well, that's my take on it.
 
I started doing it because I found those darn compressed cans to be cheap crap; they're a waste of cash with how quickly the pressure drops and they freeze up.
Not all compressed air canisters are cheap crap. You just happen to have bought crap.
I use 3-IN- ONE pro by WD40 and have used it numerous times and it works well and mine has never frozen up.
Not the best take on it.
 

jasonf2

Honorable
Oct 11, 2015
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I have used a vacuum for years with no issues. I find though that the sucking action doesn't work very well for cooler work though. To get anything clean that way you have to use and make contact with the brush tool, it doesn't work well and you potentially damage things. The brush tool works good for filters though. Cheap canned air is pretty useless, crazy expensive, and I never seem to have a can around when I get the urge to clean out my case. When turned upside down it is pretty cool to freeze stuff with though (probably why I never have it when I need it). There may be some canned air on the market out there that works great as per the other posters but I have never found it on the store shelf when I need it. The best thing I have found is using a small shop vac running it in reverse and "blow" with the corner tool. If it is really dirty in there I will typically pull my case out to the garage to do this because it does blow crap everywhere. Compressed air does work as well (from an air compressor), but using an air gun without a proper air dryer system has a nasty tendency to carry and spit dirty water (bad) and you need to turn the regulator way down. I don't recommend it because of the potential water/oil issue. Static discharge could be a potential issue but I have never had any problem with it. Our relative humidity here stays 50%+ most of the time though and in a dryer climate it may be more of an issue. If you want to protect your computer just make sure the case remains grounded while you work on it, keep yourself grounded and avoid physical contact with the vacuum to the computer. I don't go to those extremes, but I have also been known to live dangerously handling parts without a static strap before too. The nice part about the shop vac is that it makes a pretty quick job of blowing out the case, it is fairly gentle and you don't have get tediously close because it has pretty good air volume. A word of the wise though, make sure your shop vac is very clean and run it backwards pointed somewhere else for a bit before starting your process to avoid blowing debris into your system. My experience is that you are better off maintaining a fairly clean case interior all of the time rather than cleaning it when it gets bad enough to cause problems. This is especially true with AIO radiators because the fans are on the wrong side of the radiator for easy cleanup. When I stay on top of it I will just shut down, pop the side cover, backblow my radiators/cooler, blow out the interior and clean the filters. I do this every month or two. It takes maybe 5 minutes, makes very little mess (other than making some dust) and you are done. If I don't follow that routine and let things build up that is when you are pulling parts (potentially damaging them) and using canned compressed air (expensive).
 
Last edited:

jasonf2

Honorable
Oct 11, 2015
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10,720
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It's been almost a year i got my first PC and it's cooling performance have been degrading with time, and i think it's because i didn't clean my radiator thoroughly (I always use a paint brush to clean it and blow it with my mouth), and i'm way too much of a newbie in PC hardware maintenance to clean the radiator with water and i don't have those water-shooty-thingies. In other words, i'm too afraid to involve water into the equation. So is it fine if i use vacuum cleaner to clean my radiator? Although, i've heard that vacuum builds up static electricity and could potentially fry my PC.
One other thing, radiators have a tendency to "bridge" on the intake side with buildup. That is why it is important to blow them out reverse flow. On an AIO the fans have to be on the intake side of the radiator because of mounting constraints and they make it tough to get to the problem areas if you let things go to long.
 
Hi
I use a mini steam cleaner to clean my radiators.
If I intend to to replace the thermal paste then I completely remove the unit otherwise I leave the pump attached disassembling the fans and rad from the case hanging the rad outside the case for steam cleaning.
I use a couple old towels 1 underneath the rad and the other laying inside the case while the case is on its side.
Once the rad is steam cleaned I use compressed air to make sure the is no moisture left then reassemble.

The steam cleaner I use is similar to this unit.

https://www.walmart.com/ip/BISSELL-Steam-Shot-Hard-Floor-and-Surface-Steam-Cleaner-39N7V/637551961?wmlspartner=wlpa&selectedSellerId=0
 

Phaaze88

Glorious
Ambassador
Not all compressed air canisters are cheap crap. You just happen to have bought crap.
I use 3-IN- ONE pro by WD40 and have used it numerous times and it works well and mine has never frozen up.
Not the best take on it.
Lucky you.
None of the stores near me that are likely to have it - Walmart and Lowes - carry it. Not even Amazon turns up anything.
They all show the other Specialist products, so screw me, I guess... I'm fine with using elbow grease and a vacuum anyways.
 

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