Can You Use Methylated Spirits to Clean CPU Thermal Paste?

Written By Steven Arends

Isopropyl alcohol is the staple substance to clean/remove thermal compounds from the CPU IHS & heatsink. But what if you’re unable to get your hands on some alcohol wipes & only have methylated spirits handy?

Can you, or more importantly, should you use methylated spirits to clean the CPU & motherboard?can-you-use-methylated-spirits-to-clean-cpu-thermal-paste-s

Let’s dive into this article and find out.

Can/Should I Use Methylated Spirits to Clean CPU?

It’s not ideal to use methylated spirits to remove thermal paste because it can leave residue on the CPU IHS/die. After the residue dries, it can potentially decrease the thermal conductivity & prevent your computer from cooling properly.

But, and that’s a big but, you can use it if you don’t have any isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol handy at the moment. In such cases, make sure to use a microfiber cloth along with methylated spirit to properly clean the CPU IHS.

When you’re using it to clean a laptop or a delidded CPU, gently clean the die surface until you get a mirror-like finish.

Make sure to not spill the solvent on the motherboard. Not all methylated solvents are the same as different brands use different additives which can damage the PCB.

Also, clean the heatsink of the CPU cooler in the same manner. Make sure there’s no residue left on the surface.

Keep in mind, do not use methylated spirits if you have applied liquid metal thermal paste on your CPU. LM removal is quite tricky & you can’t risk spilling it on the PCB traces.

In short, if you’re wondering whether you can use methylated spirits to clean your CPU, then the answer is yes. But if the question in hand is “Should you?”, then the answer is no. It’s not an ideal CPU/motherboard cleaner in most cases so it’s better to just avoid using it.

Suitable Thermal Paste Cleaner for Your CPU

Now that we’ve established whether or not you should be using methylated spirits for CPU cleaning purposes, let’s see what TIM cleaner you can use.

Thermal interface material(TIM), more commonly known as the thermal paste, is a compound that helps dissipate the heat generated from the CPU/GPU die. It’s usually applied on top of the CPU IHS/die which helps lower the CPU temps and prevent CPU over-temperature issues.

Thermal paste can dry out over time & needs to be removed/cleaned properly before you can apply a fresh batch of thermal compound. In general, isopropyl alcohol is the best TIM cleaner to remove the dried-out thermal paste from the CPU & heatsink.suitable-thermal-paste-cleaner-for-your-cpu

It is both solvent and diluent, so it dilutes the thermal compound and makes it easier to remove from the processor’s IHS without leaving any residue.

As a result, alcohol wipes or rubbing alcohol is a viable option to properly clean off any thermal compound, including the liquid metal thermal paste. Additionally, it’s readily available as you can easily buy them from any medical store. But make sure it’s 70-91% isopropyl alcohol or ethanol.

In case you’re unable to find any alcohol wipes, dip a paper towel or a microfiber cloth in isopropyl alcohol and gently remove the old paste from on top of the CPU IHS/die and heatsink. Soak a cotton swab in isopropyl alcohol & wipe the edges of the processor to clean any residue.soak-a-cotton-cpu

You can use many alternate solvents such as methylated spirit, deodorant, or even aftershave lotion when you’re desperate. But I wouldn’t recommend using anything other than isopropyl alcohol as aforementioned solvents can often damage the PCB masking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you clean a computer with methylated spirits?

Yes, you can clean a computer with methylated spirits as it evaporates quickly and doesn’t streak.

What can I use to clean off a CPU?

70% isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol wipes are the best thermal compound cleaner for your CPU.

Is it OK to use alcohol to clean the CPU?

Yes, it is recommended to use alcohol such as isopropyl alcohol to clean a CPU surface before applying a new thermal compound.

Wrapping Up

That’s about it. Using electrically conductive solvents can potentially damage any electrical component in your device. So just ensure your preferred cleaner doesn’t have any electrically conductive impurities & you’ll be good to go.

Hopefully, this write-up has brought you up to a definitive conclusion about this query. If you still have unanswered questions on your mind, feel free to ask them in the comments below.


About The Author
Steven Arends is a computer science graduate and tech enthusiast with over 10 years of experience in the field. He has a vast collection of computer hardware and loves exploring the latest advancements. As a contributing author to 10Scopes, Steven shares his expertise to make the world of technology more accessible and easier to understand for all readers.

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