How to Clean Thermal Paste

How to Clean Thermal Paste off Motherboard?

Thermal paste is a great way to keep the CPU cool and get the most out of the system as a whole. Best Thermal paste should be reapplied after a certain amount of time. But things get messy when the thermal paste you put on the CPU spills on the CPU socket.

It is clear that you are scared, upset, and worried. You might think that your system is no longer working. How to Clean Thermal Paste off Motherboard in 2022?

But don’t be afraid. Trust me, nothing will happen! This guide will keep your PC from dying and keep you from being miserable. I also once accidentally got thermal paste on the CPU socket. Luckily, I was able to clean the thermal paste, and my PC has been working fine ever since.

In this article, I’ll show you how I remove the thermal paste from the CPU socket.

Can Thermal Paste Damage Your System?

Yes, a thermal paste that is too conductive can hurt your system. Only thermal paste made of metal can conduct electricity and cause the motherboard to short out.

On the other hand, both conductive and non-conductive thermal pastes can keep the CPU and the Motherboard from coming into physical contact. If the thermal paste gets between the CPU and the motherboard, it can stop the pins from making good contact with the socket.

In that case, your computer might not start up, might crash without warning, or might not even work right. Carbon-based thermal paste doesn’t let electricity flow through it at all. So there won’t be any short circuits if you use this thermal paste.

But you should read the instructions to keep from short-circuiting. Thermal paste made from ceramic does not conduct electricity. So you don’t have to worry that the paste will short out pins on the CPU or other parts of the motherboard.

But you have to be careful when you use thermal paste made of metal. It can short out CPU pins and other parts of the motherboard because it conducts electricity. So it’s best to wait to turn on the computer until you get rid of the extra thermal paste.

How to Clean Thermal Paste from the CPU Pins and Motherboard

Only between the CPU cooler and the CPU should thermal paste be used. You should get rid of any extra paste right away. If there is even a tiny bit of thermal paste left on the socket, your computer won’t work right.

Things You Need to Clean

You’ll need some tools and cleaning supplies before you can start cleaning. Isopropyl alcohol is the first thing you need. 70% to 99.999% of the water can be used to clean thermal paste. 99 percent is the best, but there isn’t much of it around.

If you can’t get your hands on any isopropyl alcohol, you can also use nail polish remover. But it’s not a good idea to use nail polish remover because it contains oils that can hurt the system.

There are nail polish removers that say they are made of 100% acetone. But the risk is not worth it. Get the pure acetone as long as you need it.

Other things you’ll need:

  • Q-tips
  • Toothpicks that are very thin
  • Magnifying glass

Different Types of CPU Sockets

On the market, you can buy two different kinds of CPU sockets. One is called an LGA socket, and the other is called a PGA socket. The PGA socket was once used by both Intel and AMD, but Intel switched from PGA to LGA. The PGA socket is only used by AMD at this point.

Here are ways to clean both types of CPU sockets:

1. Clean the CPU or LGA sockets.

You need a cleaning agent like isopropyl alcohol, acetone, or Arcticlean 1, Q-tips, and a magnifying glass. The goal is to use the cleaner and the Q-tips to carefully take off the thermal paste. You have to be extra careful because the pins are thin and can easily bend or break.

Also, the pins are set at an angle of about 45 degrees. So you might need a magnifying glass to see which way the pins are leaning. It is important to remember which way the pins lean because that is the way you will move the Q-tips. If you push the pins against their grain, they can break or bend right away.

First, put a small amount of cleaner where you can see thermal paste on the CPU socket or CPU. If you use Arcticlean, just squeeze a few drops. When you use isopropyl alcohol or acetone, use an eyedropper.

After putting on the cleaner, wait about 5 minutes for the thermal paste to thin.

Now, take the Q-tip and put it on the end of a pin. Leave the Q-tip in place for a moment so that the cleaning fluid can soak into it.

Repeat this process until there is no more cleaning fluid on the socket. Don’t forget to get a new Q-tip when it gets wet.

2. Clean CPU or PGA Sockets

Like LGA sockets, PGA sockets or CPUs need to be cleaned in the same way. In this case, you have to pull the paste out of the holes instead of rubbing it off. For this method, you will need toothpicks that are very thin and very fine.

First, put the cleaners in the socket or on the CPU. After putting on the cleaner, wait about 5 minutes for the thermal paste to thin.

Now, gently push a toothpick into a hole until you feel some resistance. When you feel resistance, stop and slowly pull the toothpick out. When this method is used, some of the paste comes out with the stick and some is pushed back.

Now, use a Q-tip to clean the hole of any paste that has mixed with water.

Use this method to get through each hole. If you need to, you can change the toothpicks and the Q-tip.

Make sure to wipe and clean the socket or CPU to get rid of any extra fluid.

4. Clean the surface areas

This is a very important step for people who use Arcticlean kits. Make sure to let the surface dry for at least 24 hours after cleaning before moving on to this step.

Put a few drops of Arcticlean 2 on a Q-tip and run it gently in the direction of the pins to clean LGA sockets or the CPU. If there is any paste left, you will need to clean it again. If there is no paste left, keep going with the cleaning process. Last, use a new Q-tip to soak up any fluids that are still there.

The method is the same for PGA sockets or CPU holes as it is for LGA sockets. Carefully put a few drops of Arcticlean 2 in holes with a Q-tip. If there is any paste left over, you will need to clean it again. Keep going with your cleaning process until there is no more paste. Last, use a new Q-tip to soak up any fluid that is still there.

For the next 24 hours, let the socket or CPU dry out.

Other Areas of the Motherboard

Thermal paste can get on other parts of the motherboard if it gets on them. You can clean them the same way you cleaned the other things. Use a clean cloth or Q-tip to wipe the surface after putting a few drops of cleaner on it.


So, that’s it. This guide should help you clean the thermal paste off of the CPU socket and the CPU. So clean the thermal paste and put it back on to improve performance.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.


Can I clean thermal paste with sanitizer?

No, please don’t clean the thermal paste with hand sanitizer. It will leave a film because it has extra sanitizer in it. So, don’t use hand sanitizer on the thermal paste to clean it.

Should old thermal paste be cleaned off?

Yes, it is important to get rid of old thermal paste after a certain amount of time. When the paste dries out, your CPU will get hot, and the speed of the CPU will slow down. So, you should put new thermal paste on when you think it’s time.

Can thermal paste cause a CPU to fail?

Your CPU won’t break if you don’t use thermal paste. But if you put too much thermal paste on your CPU, it can get overclocked. It’s not likely that too much paste would kill a modern CPU.

How do you remove thermal paste from a motherboard?

Isopropyl alcohol and a clean cloth can be used to remove the paste from the CPU. The CPU should be left in the socket while the paste is carefully removed. Don’t be slow and overbearing. A cotton swab can be used to remove any paste from crevices.

Is it OK if thermal paste gets on the motherboard?

By itself, thermal paste cannot harm the motherboard. Not electrically conductive. I’ve only seen this happen twice, both times due to clumsy first-time assemblers who “accidentally” spilled some across the pins of the (intel) CPU socket before inserting the CPU.