How To Clean CPU heatsink

Cleaning your CPU heatsink has to be done every once in a while, which can make it a big pain, but properly cleaning off the thermal paste from your heatsink and reapplying a new set of thermal paste can help keep your PC at its top performance for much longer.

Cleaning Thermal Paste off a CPU Heatsink a

IN this article I will be talking about how to remove the thermal paste off your CPU and heatsink. It will be a step-by-step guide on what tools your will need and how to do it properly without breaking anything.

When you are done cleaning your heatsink or if you want to know how to apply thermal paste to your CPU here is another article I wrote on How to Apply Thermal Paste.

What Tools Do You Need to Clean Your Heatsink?

The tools you will be needing to clean your heatsink are:

  • Cotton Swabs
  • Wipes
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Microfiber Cloth
  • Extra Thermal Paste

Step 1: Remove The CPU Cooler

The first step and probably most obvious step is to remove the CPU cooler., but even before that make sure your PC is completely turned off and unplugged so that you don’t hurt yourself or damage your computer.

Removing CPU Cooler From The CPU

You should also make sure that your computer was just on and running before you shut it off because it will heat up the thermal paste that is stuck to your CPU and heatsink, which makes it easier to take off.

Now you can separate your CPU cooler from the CPU.

Every CPU cooler is different but most have four screws in each corner that you need to unscrew and some have a latch that you need to unhook or click to unlock it.

Once you do this do not try to pull the cooler straight up from the CPU and motherboard as this will not work and you could risk damaging something.

Instead, you need to do is slowly move the CPU cooler and wiggle it out of place as you are pulling up Gently. Emphasize gently.

If you still can’t get your CPU heatsink/cooler to separate from your CPU and motherboard you can either plug your computer back in and let it run a little longer so that it heats up the thermal paste a bit more, or you can be a little riskier and do what I did to remove my last heatsink.

What I did was I got a knife or something very strong and thin to slip in between the CPU and heatsink while I was twisting and pulling and it eventually came off.

Although this method is a bit riskier, you should only do it if you are confident that you won’t break anything. It can save you a lot of time.

Step 2: Clean off Your Thermal Paste

Start by using a cotton swab and try swabbing and wiping off as much thermal paste as you can. The reason why you should start with a cotton swab is to get rid of any air bubbles and clumps of thermal paste that were probably made when you removed your CPU cooler.

The reason why you shouldn’t use a microfiber cloth right from the start is that these clumps of thermal paste can make it become very messy and could get on other PC components that you don’t want it to get on.

The cotton swabs make it a much easier and cleaner process.

After you’re done getting most of the thermal paste off or at least the big clumps you can switch to a wipe or a microfiber cloth to clean the rest of the visible thermal paste that is both stuck on your CPU and heatsink.

Cleaning off thermal paste with a microfiber cloth

Now that you have wiped off most of the thermal paste you are probably going to be left with a small amount that has dried up on the CPU. Even if you can’t see any visible thermal paste on the CPU or heatsink, there are most likely microscopic chunks of dried-up thermal paste sitting on your CPU or heatsink.

In order to clean the rest of this up, you need to use Isopropyl Alcohol by putting a few little drops on your CPU and heatsink you should then get the clean side of your microfiber cloth and wipe it away. This will get any excess thermal paste off of your CPU and Heatsink.

You should then wait a few minutes and allow the CPU and heatsink to dry up from the Isopropyl Alcohol. This usually doesn’t take too long because Isopropyl evaporates within a few minutes.

Step 3: Re-Apply Thermal Paste

I already have an article that talks about the methods on how to apply thermal paste, but I will go over the most basic method here.

I will now go over the most basic method of applying thermal paste and probably the most popular method.

Start by squeezing out a pea-sized amount of thermal paste to the center of the CPU.

Next, get the CPU cooler and place the heatsink on top of the CPU with the thermal paste on it.

Try to place it directly on top of the CPU so the thermal paste can be evenly spread.

Hold the heatsink to the CPU firmly for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

After that, it should be ready to go. Just be a bit careful when putting it back inside your PC because the thermal paste is fully solidified so it might move.


If you still want to know the other techniques for applying thermal paste click here.

Other than that you have successfully cleaned your CPU heatsink and you are all set to do whatever you need to do next. Just remember to take precautions before cleaning off anything in your computer as it can be very sensitive to certain things.

Lucas Coulson

I first got into building my own computer when I was around 12 or 13. The first computer I had ever built didn't work. So I kept researching to figure what I did wrong. I really enjoyed researching, learning, and building computers, so I decided to turn it into an online business, and here I am.

Recent Posts