Is it Ok to Use Toothpaste as Thermal Paste on the CPU?

Written By Farhan Max

So, you check the temps of your computer and find it running too hot. And the quickest way to cool down your processor is by changing the thermal paste.

If you do not have any spare thermal compound, you might be tempted to use a different substance such as toothpaste. And I do not blame you ‒ you may be watching hacks on Tiktok a lot

Before you go ahead experimenting, read the pitfalls and possible benefits (if any) of using toothpaste as a thermal compound in this article.

Is it Ok to Use Toothpaste as Thermal Paste on the CPU?

No, you should not put thermal paste as a thermal compound permanently on your CPU. A toothpaste can temporarily run your computer for a few hours if you run out of thermal paste. But you should always apply a thermal paste on your CPU for getting the max cooling performance.

A toothpaste can act as a thermal solution between your processor and the cooler.

In fact, your computer can function normally with such a solution. But the problem arises as a thermal paste is designed to conduct away from the processor. A toothpaste cannot do that for a sustained period of time. It dries out and that can hamper cooling.

Additionally, toothpaste can conduct electricity due to the presence of water. This can cause a short and damage your CPU. You surely do not want that.

Thermal paste’s pretty inexpensive. You can easily get one for less than 10 dollars. You can use any thermal paste, but Arctic and Noctua are rated highly for their cooling performance and longevity.

What does a Thermal Paste Do?

You might start to think about whether you need a thermal paste in the first place. Why not connect the CPU cooler directly to the processor?

That would result in a temperature over 80 degrees even when doing less stressful tasks on your processor. And while gaming, chances are rife that your computer could shut down midway due to overheating. Not to mention the lag you can experience during gaming.

The reason thermal paste exists is due to imperfections on either side of the processor’s IHS and cooler’s surface. We would not be able to see this, but a simple microscope would reveal this imperfection.apply-thermal-paste

Now, air existing between these surfaces is not ideal. Recall some Physics lessons from high school now. Air, being a poor conductor of heat cannot transfer all the heat generated by the processor. As a result, we see those high temperatures.

When you apply a thermal paste, it increases heat conduction by removing air bubbles between the two surfaces. While the thermal paste is not exactly a liquid, it excels at transferring heat. Typically they contain metal oxides, silicones, and materials that are good at conducting heat.

A freshly applied thermal paste can easily last you more than a couple of years. However, you need to check the temperatures of your computer periodically. Then you can determine if it needs to be changed.

Check out our in-depth guide on CPU temperature to know more about it.

How to Apply a Thermal Paste

First, remove any existing thermal paste if is applied to your CPU. You can spray some rubbing /isopropyl alcohol onto the paste. Then gently rub it using a microfiber cloth. Continue doing this for both the underside of the CPU cooler and the processor’s heat spreader.

Now put a small lump of thermal paste at the center of the IHS. Some people make an X shape using the paste.

Doing either of them is okay. Just ensure you do not use too much thermal paste that it spills out from the side of the processor. If you have spilled some in your CPU pins, check our guide to clean thermal paste in a separate post that will help you out.

We have a detailed guide on how to clean your CPU if you have used an excess thermal paste.

Before installing the CPU cooler, it is a good idea to clean the CPU cooler fan blades. Use a can of compressed air to remove the build-up of dust particles. Hold the fan blades while you are cleaning them.

Mount the CPU cooler by putting in the screws and installing them tightly. For third-party air coolers, you may need to install mounting brackets underneath the processor first. After that proceed to the cooler.

And in case you decide to run the CPU without any thermal paste, check out the embedded article to know the aftermath of such a decision.

Best Thermal Paste Alternatives

Thermal Pads are a great alternative to thermal paste. If you have a GPU, you would see some padding present on top of the memory chips and the capacitors. You can buy these and apply them on top of the components. Just peel off the skins covering the adhesive and slap them on the

Thermal pads are also easier to install and remove. Thermal paste can stick to the CPU after a very long time and it can be messy when you are removing them. No such complications exist for a thermal pad.

Consider opting for liquid cooling if you do not want to deal with thermal paste.

I know, this is probably the wrong category for suggesting it. But a liquid cooler will always give you the lowest temperatures when stress testing your computer.

In short, thermal paste itself is great at cooling, but if you want to take your cooling up a notch higher, go for an AIO or custom liquid cooler. And don’t forget to see the differences between a thermal paste and a thermal pad.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it okay to not replace thermal paste?

If you have applied a thermal paste less than a year ago, you don’t need to replace it. The problem arises when the temperatures of your CPU get too high. Then it becomes necessary to replace the thermal paste. So, run a benchmark and it should help you determine if you need replacing.

How long can toothpaste last as thermal paste?

Toothpaste can only provide a temporary thermal solution. Because, unlike a thermal paste, it can get hard. This can hinder the cooling process. Also, it can be very inefficient in transferring the heat away from your processor.

Final Words

So, a thermal paste itself is the best alternative for it. And replacing it regularly will ensure that your computer will run cooler and perform at its maximum levels for a longer time.

Avoid using a stopgap solution such as toothpaste which in essence is best designed for your tooth, not your processor. Maybe just wait out a bit and then invest in a long-term cooling solution.

I hope any existing queries are covered by this article. Comment below, if you have further queries.

With that said it is time for goodbye.

About The Author
Farhan Max is a tech geek with a particular interest in computer hardware. He's been fascinated by gaming since childhood and is now completing his undergraduate studies while researching and testing the latest tech innovations. Alongside his love for all things geeky, Farhan is also a skilled photographer.

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