How To Remove Thermal Paste From Electronic Devices



Category: How To

how to remove thermal paste

If you are in the pc building world, you have probably come across thermal paste. However, if you are unfamiliar with this term, worry not. We will help you demystify all there is about how to remove thermal paste. You will need to peel the back of your CPU cooler to remove thermal paste. So lets talk about how to remove thermal paste from your devices.


What Is Thermal Paste?

Thermal paste is a thermally conductive chemical compound that is used as an interface between two surfaces such as a heatsink and heat source. It is imperative to know that without thermal paste on your computer processor, there could be catastrophic results. Similarly, you need to pick up on signs that your computer gives you. Thus, when it is time to remove thermal paste and reapply new paste.

Thermal paste is an important component in ensuring that your CPU runs at high speeds. It helps to cool the CPU temperature to avoid overheating. Thermal paste is also known as thermal interface material, thermal compound and CPU thermal paste. New thermal paste is a grey paste that looks fairly normal and can vary depending on different brands.

Old thermal paste can hinder the cooling process, and it is thus pertinent that you know how to get rid of it. There is a variety of thermal paste cleaner that you can use. Thermal paste can be grouped into two; conductive metallic thermal pastes and non-conductive thermal paste. Thermal paste has the main function of sealing microscopic air gaps from the interface area.

This has the aim of maximizing heat transfer and dissipation. Therefore, the computer processor and heatsink are carefully clean without using too much pressure. This is to avoid potential damage to the affected area.

How To Remove Thermal Paste

1) Using Isopropyl Alcohol/ Rubbing Alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol is a really good option when removing thermal paste. What you want to do first is use a dry microfiber cloth to dip a small amount of isopropyl alcohol. Then you want to use the microfiber cloth to wipe off the dried thermal paste. Taking extra precaution with the microfiber cloth is advised when doing this. You do not want to rush this process and potentially damage the CPU pins.

Thereafter, you should use a plastic spudger to remove hardened thermal paste. You have to be precisely careful when cleaning the computer processor and heatsink with rubbing alcohol. After using the plastic spudger, go ahead and gently use q tips and a cotton swab to remove the excess thermal paste. Removing thermal paste using isopropyl alcohol is an effective method. It leaves no residue and can evaporate quickly.

2) Using Nail Polish Remover

When using nail polish remover to remove old thermal paste, you need to do it right. First of all, you need to ensure that your computer is off. Next, remove the heatsink gently and dust off the vents. When dusting, make sure that loose dust does not go to other parts of the PC components. The plastic spudger should be of help now. Finally, the dried thermal paste should start coming off in chunks.

Enthusiasts will, however, tell you that using nail remover is not a good idea when removing old thermal paste. We can clap back by saying that it should have acetone. So long as it acetone, it is a good choice to use. Then comes time to use the acetone. Wipe off the old paste using q tips(cotton bud), microfiber cloth and paper towels. Dip a small amount of the nail remover and repeat the same process.

3) Using Paper Towels

What happens when you have to remove your CPU cooler urgently because your computer is acting up? Even worse, you do not have isopropyl on hand, and you do not own nail remover. All you have is a couple paper towels in your kitchen. But, surprisingly enough, you have a cotton swab. Believe it or not, a paper towel will actually save the day. A PC gamer company swears by this.

What you want to do is gently clean the thermal paste while avoiding touching the CPU pins. You do not want to destroy them or any other essential components such as the processor and heat sink. However, others will argue that microscopic fibres from the paper towels will stick to the heat spreader. As such, this will prevent enough cooling and thus be catastrophic. If you are gentle, this will for sure not occur.

4) Using Thermal Paste Remover

While using methods such as rubbing alcohol, acetone and paper towels work well; there is one method that works exceptionally well. Thermal paste remover is specifically designed to clean thermal paste. There is need to, however, search for a brand that works for you. You should then remove the CPU cooler and dust off the vents.

A microfibre cloth alongside the thermal paste remover is used to gently clean thermal paste off. Thermal paste cleanser comes in two parts. The first part is to remove old paste from the CPU surface. The second part is to give the CPU surface, processor and heatsink a deep clean. You should understand one thing when you reapply thermal paste. You need to make sure that the thermal paste you are using has high viscosity.

Uses Of Thermal Paste

a) Improve Heat Coupling

The different components of the CPU use thermal paste to improve heat coupling. This is done by draining away waste heating in semiconductor devices such as CPU's and GPU's. However, electrical resistance causes heating of the components, and this results in overheating. These devices, therefore, need to be cooled quickly to avoid catastrophic failure of the device. Thus transferring heat away from the CPU components.

Most thermal pastes have the ability to cool the heatsink. This allows the CPU to run at hg speed for a long period of time. It also improves CPU performance. However, air is a terrible conductor, and we want to avoid any air from entering the system and motherboard. Microscopic imperfections on the contact surface cause air pockets in between them. This is where applying thermal paste comes in.

b) Cooling

There is need to typically have thermal compound between the top of the CPU case and the heat sink. Applying thermal paste behind the CPU cooler will guarantee that the device's system will work at optimum speeds. However, you need to know that if the computer becomes too cold, it could damage the CPU and computer. This is why you are advised not to put your device on a cold surface.

This, however, does not mean that the CPU should not remain cooler. You need to search for a balance. Thermal paste is able to cool the components that produce too much heating. The heatsink of a computer and CPU is where the thermal paste is placed. It keeps the components cooler and, as such, prevent overheating, which can cause problems to the motherboard.

c) Heat management

Thermal grease ensures longer performance of your electronic equipment. This is through efficient heating management. Thermal compound is classified into two, as discussed earlier. Conductive and non-conductive. The former include silver, aluminum and copper, which is metal-based. The latter include ceramic and silicone-based, such as zinc.

Clean thermal paste should be carefully applied. If you are not good at applying thermal paste, it could damage the motherboard. Conductive paste can spill on the motherboard and short your system if the thermal grease has started to get toasty if it could find its way into the CPU socket and damage the CPU pins. The CPU pins are very delicate.

Here are some related questions we have compiled for you:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

i) What Should I Use To Remove Thermal Paste?

When you want to clean thermal paste, the most recommended method is rubbing alcohol. Alcohol can remove silicone oil-based thermal grease. It especially works to remove dried paste that may find its way into the CPU socket.

ii) What Application Method Should I Use To Install Thermal Grease?

You want to pay more recognition to how much you use and apply it. All conventional methods will work as long as you use a pea-sized amount. It does, however, have to be placed in the CPU's centre. Also, if the cooler slips, you have to start over.

iii) What Alternative Can I Use To Remove Thermal Paste?

You can invest in a couple of cotton buds and swabs. Alternatively, a microfiber cloth will work really well to remove gunk. The microfiber cloth can also be used alongside acetone as it leaves no residue.


By now, we have demystified all things thermal paste, from the types of thermal compounds to the various uses of thermal paste. The amount of thermal grease to use should be pea-sized to avoid leakage and ultimately degradation. Removing thermal paste should now be easy to do, given all the information above. It is, however, important to protect yourself when working on your PC.

You should work with gloves to avoid accidents. Other precautionary measures should be taken as well. These include; working in a dust-free environment and avoid scratching components. After proper thermal paste installation, you need not worry about reapplying a new coat for up to five years. You can be comfortable knowing that your processor will run at optimum levels.