I use paper towels and 99% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. They work nice, because even if you scrape the initial TIM off with a credit card, you may still have to scrub a bit to get it all off. Paper towels are durable enough for this task. You may get some small paper towel fibers left over when you're done. Just give it a blow (no spit though).
Coffee filter would probably work well for a final dry "dusting" before applying TIM.