How to Safely Clean Spilled Thermal Paste on a Motherboard

This is a guide for cleaning up spilled thermal paste. I’ve seen this happen many times, and every time the machine gets disassembled in an unpleasant way.

Thermal Paste On Motherboard

can thermal paste damage motherboard?

Yes, if you fail to remove the paste properly, there is a chance that some of it will go on the motherboard. This paste has many important qualities including conducting heat, and when it stays in place, can conduct current between electrical circuits and cause damage. 

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How to clean spilled thermal paste on motherboard?

  • 1. First, take out the mainboard and set it on top of a flat surface with the components facing up (i.e. fan down).
  • 2. Take photos of all sides, marking off which screws go where to avoid any mixups during reassembly.
  • 3. Remove screws from PCI cards, hard disks or anything else that is attached to the motherboard so you can completely remove it from the case without damage. If there are screws holding items in place on top of the mobo, remove them too if possible, being careful not to misplace them by accident . You should have enough time before thermal paste dries out completely., though this might vary depending on different situations..
  • 4 Once outside the case, carefully lay the motherboard on its side. If you turned off the PC before spilling, it is safe to leave plugged in at this point.
  • 5. Use a razor blade (or even better an x-acto knife) and make two vertical cuts about half an inch apart on opposite sides of the spill location. This should be long enough where you can grab each piece and peel them back gently , starting from one end and following through till you get to the other end of the spill, pulling up pieces as large as possible, especially in larger spills like in my photo here:
  • 6. Once these halves are peeled back away from your hands hold them out so they shield your face from any steam or “dust coming out of the motherboard with more pressure than you would usually use on a razor blade.
  • 7. The next part is the trickiest as you have to put pressure from behind and separate each layer without tearing too much of it away from its attachments, or accidentally pulling some important circuitry off with it.
  • 8. Be very careful not to stretch any pieces as this will make them harder to peel back later, and be sure that you don’t rip holes in anything by accident . It helps if the board is a little wet with saliva or mineral oil at this point for lubrication, but be sure it’s washed off completely before reapplying thermal paste after all traces of the old stuff are gone!
  • 9. Once most of the large chunks of thermal goop are out of the way, you can get to smaller bits with a toothpick. If the paste is really thick use some acetone fingernail polish remover on it , it should come off easily.
  • 10. After you are certain that all of the old paste is gone and no pieces of it remain in any crevices or on any electrical contacts clean everything with some alcohol and cotton swabs .
  • 11. Once every trace of thermal goop is removed and all surfaces are shiny and new apply your fresh thermal material! I like to use Arctic Silver 5 but there is also Gelid GC-Extreme which is supposed to be better for temperatures than AS5 when used correctly.
  • 12. Reassemble and enjoy your working motherboard! If there is still a problem with overheating after reapplying thermal paste, please refer to this guide if you need help finding the right temps:

What can happen if you don’t clean it up right away?

The longer you wait to clean up the spilled thermal paste the more time it has to seep into places where it can cause problems. The real danger comes when pieces of it get caught under components like the GPU or northbridge chips which must sit very close to the surface of the mobo in order for them to do their job effectively. If this happens, either they will overheat due to lack of proper contact with your new thermal paste, or they will short circuit right through your motherboard leading to costly repairs!

To avoid these problems simply act quickly when you spill and take good care in cleaning up all traces of old thermal material so that fresh paste has a chance to properly adhere without having any obstructions in its way!

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How to prevent spilling thermal paste on motherboard?

In order to avoid spilling thermal paste on the motherboard, make sure all your connections are secured and locked well. Also make sure not to touch the CPU or GPU when installing them, as this will leave grease from your hands which is a major cause for spilling thermal past on mobo.

Last but not least always keep in mind that spilling thermal paste can result in overheating of system components and can damage your motherboard!

Helpful tips for using thermal paste correctly:

  • Make sure your CPU and GPU are seated correctly and locked before applying thermal paste.
  • Before applying thermal paste, better to use alcohol or any other cleaning agent on the CPU/GPU heat sink and on the CPU/GPU. This way you will be able to remove all the dust particles which could result in such a problem as spilling thermal past on motherboard.
  • When removing old thermal paste it’s much easier if you do so when it is still slightly warm. If it has already dried out, soak some cotton swabs with alcohol and let them sit for a few minutes before trying to scrape off the remaining material (see paragraph 5).
  • If your computer case has a side window make sure not to leave your system turned on for hours at a time. Most computer components release heat even when the system is idle (CPU, GPU, HDD), which can cause damage to them if they are not cooled properly!
  • Never power on your PC without cleaning up thermal paste after installing new components like CPU/GPU etc. The first boot usually results in very high temperatures and this may shorten the lifespan of your hardware!
  • If you spilled too much thermal paste it should be cleaned off as soon as possible before it dries out. Once it has dried, scraping off with fingernails or other hard objects will only dent the surface of your motherboard and leave ugly streaks that will remind you of that unfortunate event every time you look inside your computer case!
  • Note that there is no need to reapply thermal paste after every installment of a new component, but you should do it if the old one was spilled or has dried out! It’s better to leave it alone if your hardware works fine.
  • Make sure that after installing CPU/GPU, the motherboard is well seated and locked into place before applying any thermal paste (thermal pads). If you use too much thermal paste, make sure to remove all excess material around the CPU/GPU contact surfaces on the mobo.
  • Using too little thermal paste can also be disastrous for your system! If only a thin layer is applied between CPU/GPU and heat sink it can result in overheating because not enough material provides needed pressure against components in order to establish good contact.
  • At last, it is a good idea to turn your computer on for 5 minutes after applying any thermal paste in order to let the components heat up and aid proper adhesion! You should also make sure that you never touch or apply too much pressure around the CPU/GPU when installing them, as this could lead to spilling thermal paste which can cause problems down the road.

Check out the motherboard selection guide.


Spilling thermal past on motherboard results in overheating of hardware resulting possibly in damaging hardware parts. Spilled thermal past must be removed immediately before it dries out otherwise it will damage motherboard deep inside. If this happens motherboard has to be replaced at a great cost. To avoid spilling thermal past on the motherboard follow simple steps during installation of hardware components.

Hi, fellow tech enthusiasts! I’m Syed Kashif Shah, and I’m proud to be your go-to expert for all things like problems, suggestions, recommendations related to graphics cards. As a seasoned Technology Consultant and Hardware Enthusiast, I’ve spent years in the graphics card troubleshooting and repair field.