What is the Best Thermal Paste Alternative? {12 Substitutes}

In building a PC, thermal paste is the one thing that can be overlooked the most. Some people opt not to use it when assembling a PC or sometimes just forget. This is especially the case for new PC builders. Perhaps these PC builders aren’t that familiar with what thermal paste is and how it works.

For skilled and long-time PC builders who know their stuff in PC building, the application of thermal paste is necessary. But there are times that we run out and buying one would take some time, so we think of something alternative that would work similarly to a regular paste.

So what is the best thermal paste alternative? There are a handful of options that you can use as an alternative to thermal paste, most of which are composed of common household items. However, using these items as substitutes for a regular paste is not highly recommended and should only be used for emergencies where you don’t have any laying around.

Thermal Paste: What it is and Why do you Need to Apply it?

In short, the main job of thermal paste is to fill the air gaps between the base of the heatsink and the IHS’s surface. If you look closely, both of these parts have a smooth surface, but there are actually some gaps between the two that may not be visible to the naked eye, making heat transfer between the CPU and heat sink inefficient. Thermal paste would fill all those airgaps. This would allow the heatsink and the IHS to have direct contact, making heat dissipation faster and more efficient.

Pea sized dot of thermal paste on CPU

Old paste is one of the biggest reasons for applying new paste. If you’re wondering how long does thermal paste last, check this article out.

Thermal Paste Alternatives

There are several alternatives for thermal paste that you can use. Most of them can be found in your house as they are common household items. You can choose any alternative that you think is best and is accessible to you.

When using a substitute for thermal paste, make sure that you are doing it right to avoid any damage that could affect your PC.

How to Make an Alternative for Thermal Paste

Making your own thermal paste will vary on the type of material or substance you use. While some options can be applied directly, some require a certain amount of mixtures of two or more types of materials in order to use them properly.

If you are trying to make an alternative in the form of a mixture, make sure to mix the correct amount of each material to achieve maximum performance and avoid damage that is caused by the incorrect application.

Friendly Reminder: Only use these Alternatives for Emergencies

Before go deeper into available options, I would like to STRESS that using an alternative should only be done in case of emergencies. Like if you’ve run out and can’t find any replacement nearby.

When you use a substitute, you must keep in mind that it isn’t meant for long-term use. You should replace any unconventional substitute with regular paste as soon as possible. Using any substance other than thermal paste on your CPU may void the warranty. So be careful.

So what can you use instead for alternatives? Below are some viable (and not so viable) alternatives so that you can choose the best thermal paste alternative for you.

1. Thermal Pads

Thermal pads are by far the best substitute for thermal paste. It is almost as good as regular paste, easy to apply, and most importantly, safe to use. It is also designed for this particular purpose so you don’t have to sacrifice your CPU’s warranty.

Thermal pad on CPU

2. Toothpaste and Vaseline Mixture

Toothpaste is the most popular choice as an alternative. Not only is it good for conducting heat, but it is also accessible as this is a common household item. It is also very cheap and is available in almost every store. The only downside of using toothpaste is that it dries out fast, especially in a hot environment like inside a PC case.

toothpaste on toothbrush

However, a mixture of toothpaste and vaseline should do the trick and will extend the toothpaste’s life. To do this, mix the two substances in an 8:2 ratio, with eight parts of toothpaste for every two parts of vaseline. Mix the two substances really well, and apply them directly to the IHS.

You can use a syringe to apply the mixture available in every drug store. You can also use other objects. Just make sure they won’t spill.

3. Hazelnut Spread

Hazelnut spread is also an excellent choice as an alternative to thermal paste if vaseline is not available for mixing along with toothpaste. The thick consistency of hazelnut spread makes it easier to apply and has good thermal conductivity. It also lasts longer than pure toothpaste.

Hazelnut chocolate spread

To use hazelnut spread, just apply a small amount of spread evenly on the CPU, not too much as it might spill on the side of the CPU as soon as you apply pressure on the heat sink.

4. Aluminum Powder and Vaseline Mixture

Another good excellent substitute for paste is a mixture of aluminum powder and vaseline. As some of you might already know, aluminum is an excellent conductor of heat, and mixing it with vaseline would make it more effective as an alternative for thermal paste.

If you don’t have any powdered aluminum lying around, you can make it on your own by sanding a piece of aluminum.

As soon as you already have both ingredients, mix them well with a 1:1 ratio.

5. Diaper Rash Cream

If you still have babies in your house, be it your younger sibling or cousins around the house, chances are you have diaper rash cream just lying around. You can use diaper rash cream as an alternative whenever you run out of thermal paste, or your current one has dried out.

Diaper rash cream also contains zinc oxide, which can be found in regular paste – which makes it a good alternative.

6. Ketchup or Mustard

Who would’ve thought that ketchup or mustard could work as a temporary substitute for thermal paste? Redditor u/FelonSoeter posted a thread about how he tried ketchup as a substitute for years. The results were good as they kept the CPU’s temperature at an acceptable range.

bottles of ketchup and mustard

However, due to the consistency of the ketchup and mustard, applying it to your CPU should be carefully done as it may drip as soon as you put the heat sink on.

7. Hair Cream or Gel

Using hair cream or gel is not a bad idea as they are cheap and readily available. They are also sticky, which is one property of thermal paste that could fill those airgaps with little to no air bubbles. The downside of using these is it dries out faster, especially at a higher temperature.

8. Hair Wax

If you have used hair cream or gel, then hair wax should also be a viable option since all of them almost have the same properties. And if applied properly and with the correct amount, they are supposed to work for days or even weeks. If you start to notice an increase in temperature, try checking if it has dried out.

9. Bananas

Yes. That fruit that almost everyone likes can also be a good substitute for thermal paste. However, bananas shouldn’t be used alone as they are a poor conductor of heat and have lots of air gaps when applied. But mixing it with aluminum powder should do the trick. Thermal conductivity is okay with this mixture but not as good as the other options mentioned. You should only use this if there are no options left. Plus, bananas can spoil quickly, so don’t try to use them for days.

sliced bananas

10. Beeswax

Another good alternative for thermal paste is beeswax, but only for as long as it’s still wet. As soon as it gets dried out, it becomes brittle or crumbly, which may also spill to other components. When using this as a substitute, make sure to check it regularly.

11. Sealing Wax

Sealing wax is also another option that we included in our list. When sealing wax is still wet, its consistency is sticky but not as thick as other alternatives. But the correct application of sealing wax should do the job. Plus, it is good for eliminating air bubbles and reducing air gaps between the heatsink base and the CPU.

12. Dental Adhesives

The dental adhesive must be one of the hardest to find as thermal paste alternatives among all the other options listed. Unlike many others that are common household items, dental adhesive, on the other hand, is not always available, and you still have to buy it. But if you happen to own it already, it is still worth trying. They can last as long as any other option, but they can dry out quickly if left sitting on top of the IHS.

Other Alternatives

There might still be some other options that you can use that are not on this list. After all, people are testing new options now and then for us to use. But always keep in mind to thoroughly research before trying out new thermal paste alternatives as it may damage your components if you are not careful.

How to Select the Best Thermal Paste Substitute

Since thermal paste substitutes are temporary, there are usually a variety of substances and materials available at home. It would be best to choose materials that have similar properties to that of thermal paste.

A good paste must be easy to apply and easy to clean, for starters. It should also have high resistance to heat to avoid melting and drying out. And lastly, choose the one that will last longer if you can’t get an actual paste anytime soon.

Thermal paste vs Thermal Adhesive Tape

Thermal tape serves the same purpose as thermal paste but in the form of an adhesive tape rather than a sticky substance. Also, thermal adhesive tape can be an excellent alternative. The only drawback is that it is not as cost-effective as regular thermal paste.

Thermal adhesive tapes are commonly used in components that can’t stick themselves on a surface, like the screws found on a CPU heatsink. In this case, the thermal adhesive tape will act both as a thermal conductor and fastener.

Thermal Paste vs. Liquid Metal

Liquid metals can also be a good alternative since they are better at transferring heat compared to paste. Using liquid metal, however, should be done properly. This is because they are in the form of liquid and are prone to spills, which are harmful since liquid metals are also conductive to electricity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I Use Cheese or Butter as a Thermal Paste Alternative?

No. You should never under any circumstances use cheese or butter. These materials have low heat resistance and would melt at high temperatures that could harm your components. Take note that you should never use those materials that melt easily as an alternative to thermal paste.

What’s the Difference Between Thermal Paste, Thermal Grease, and Thermal Compound?

Thermal paste, thermal grease, and thermal compound are, all the same, just different names. You can also call them heat paste, thermal goop, thermal gel, heat sink compound, thermal interface material (TIM), CPU grease, or whatever you want to call it. They will differ, however, in brands and types.

Conclusion

Now that you have discovered the different thermal paste alternatives, some of which are common household items, it is up to you to use which one to choose. We highly recommend choosing the one that is easy to apply and that lasts longer.

And again, using a substitute should only be temporary and is not meant for long-term use. After all, thermal paste is relatively cheap, and you can easily order it online or from a local computer shop.

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