Question What is the best way to clean off thermal paste?

KasperSwag1001

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Oct 14, 2019
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I am planning to quickly remove and remount my aio cooler heatsink from my CPU so I can install some RAM. But since I don't want the thermal paste to dry up (as well as it has been a while) I want to remove and reapply it. What should I use to remove the thermal paste without leaving any residue / minimal residue?
 
Hey there,

Ideally with a non lint cloth or paper towel. Use Isopropyl Alcohol 99% for cleaning. It will evapourate after a couple of mins. Rub the paste off with a dab of ISO, and being gentle with the chip. You don't want damage any of the circuitry or caps.
 
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I am planning to quickly remove and remount my aio cooler heatsink from my CPU so I can install some RAM. But since I don't want the thermal paste to dry up (as well as it has been a while) I want to remove and reapply it. What should I use to remove the thermal paste without leaving any residue / minimal residue?
Isopropyl Alcohol 99% or any Methyl or Ethyl alcohol of highest concentration, acetone (nail polish cleaner), . nitro paint thinner. Paste is silicone based so de-greasers wouldn't work. Drip coffee filters leave no lint.
 

jeremy0118

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Feb 29, 2016
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Depends how old paste is and it's quality, I run into cases when I had to physically scrape it first before any other cleaning, one cooler needed sand paper.
I have never in the 100+ cpus i repasted had to use alcohol simply because paste doesnt stick to a cpu ihs like rust does to a car frame. no matter how dried up it is. a moist household wipe will do absolutely fine, followed by drying it with a dry wipe. i tend to steer away from recommending it on forums when people request the method simply because most people dont have this kind of cleaning alcohol just laying around and they may be inclined to think they specificly have to buy it for this purpose.
 
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I have never in the 100+ cpus i repasted had to use alcohol simply because paste doesnt stick to a cpu ihs . no matter how dried up it is. i tend to steer away from recommending it on forums when people request the method simply because most people dont have this kind of cleaning alcohol just laying around and they may be inclined to think they specificly have to buy it for this purpose.
You can't be doing it for long enough time and didn't run into AMD's "chewing gum" paste which would stick like crazy glue. It was used as late as at least FX processors. Not small number of CPUs was ruined by pulling coolers off together with CPU. Alcohol is not that difficult to get, Isoprpyl is used by printing services by gallon or barrel, Methyl for some kinds of paint thinner and brush cleaner and concentrated Ethyl in food stores.
It might be splitting hairs but paste is there to fill up small imperfections between surfaces, mechanical removal can't get in there, only solvent can. Not all pastes use same type of silicone and heat transfer filler so essentially new paste is not new any more, it's still in those scratches and imperfections.
 

jeremy0118

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Feb 29, 2016
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You can't be doing it for long enough time and didn't run into AMD's "chewing gum" paste which would stick like crazy glue. It was used as late as at least FX processors. Not small number of CPUs was ruined by pulling coolers off together with CPU. Alcohol is not that difficult to get, Isoprpyl is used by printing services by gallon or barrel, Methyl for some kinds of paint thinner and brush cleaner and concentrated Ethyl in food stores.
It might be splitting hairs but paste is there to fill up small imperfections between surfaces, mechanical removal can't get in there, only solvent can. Not all pastes use same type of silicone and heat transfer filler so essentially new paste is not new any more, it's still in those scratches and imperfections.
These scratches and imperfections are on the cooler contact plate not so much on a cpu's ihs that you need alcohol to clean it, cpu ihs has a far more smoother surface. thats what i was talking about. i do usually use alcohol for the cooler though again you are fine with using a household wipe. just takes abit longer to clean off and the diffrence in temps from using alcohol even for the cooler, i am not seeing a worthwhile improvement. and yes alcohol can be easily obtained but still i dont think everyone has it laying around. and no never had sticky icky paste. i make sure the paste is warmed up properly
 
These scratches and imperfections are on the cooler contact plate not on a cpu's ihs, thats what i was talking about. i do usually use alcohol for the cooler though again you are fine with using a household wipe. just takes abit longer to clean off and the diffrence in temps from using alcohol even for the cooler, i am not seeing a worthwhile improvement. and yes alcohol can be easily obtained but still i dont think everyone has it laying around.
Imperfections are at both sides, if there were none paste would not be needed, the point is not just to be shiny clean but dissolve silicon and get rid of last vestiges of it. Most household cleaners can't do that and contain other additives that may stick on surfaces.
If you do something it's worthwhile doing it right, not half a$$.
 
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jeremy0118

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Feb 29, 2016
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Imperfections are at both sides, if there were none paste would not be needed, the point is not just to be shiny clean but dissolve silicon and get rid of last vestiges of it. Most household cleaners can't do that and contain other additives that may stick on surfaces.
If you do something it's worthwhile doing it right, not half a$$.
blabla.. these opinions will be split always. there is nothing half ass about what i do. if you had any actual evidence to backup your nonsense , no you read somewhere that you need alcohol so thats the only right method. like i said i dont see temperature diffrences using either method. if you have alcohol laying around sure go for it. if not then a wipe will be fine. just take your time to clean it properly .

Also i made a typo that i corrected before you replied , i know the imperfections go both ways it's just "not so much" on an IHS that you need alcohol to clean it .
 
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blabla.. these opinions will be split always. there is nothing half ass about what i do. if you had any actual evidence to backup your nonsense , no you read somewhere that you need alcohol so thats the only right method. like i said i dont see temperature diffrences using either method. if you have alcohol laying around sure go for it. if not then a wipe will be fine. just take your time to clean it properly .

Also i made a typo that i corrected before you replied , i know the imperfections go both ways it's just "not so much" on an IHS that you need alcohol to clean it .
I've been doing it since 1980s and before that with electronic components. You can keep on doing your 1/2 a$$ way but you'll never be right so don't try to convince others about your errors and mistakes.
 
Whilst Iso is the preferred method for completeness' sake, other methods do work. If the end result is the same, then it's all good.

With that said, if I was offereing advice to someone on this very thing (which we are doing now), then I will always suggest Iso. Why get into what could be a bad habit.

Iso is pretty easy to get. You only need a small bottle to last years. You can get in hardware stores, Pharmacies and PC shops. €3 won't break the bank.
 

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