Water Block Cleaning

By: Dragonsmurf
December 12, 2010

When it comes to our cooling systems on our computers, we users need to know how to properly maintain our heat sinks. When our air cooled heat sinks get dirty we users just grab a can of compressed air blow out any of the dust and debris that has been collected in the fins or array on these types of coolers. When it comes to cleaning our water blocks there is a bit more to them than using just a can of air. We water block users have to tear apart the water block(s) then check for any growth, discoloration, or debris that can hinder our cooling capabilities.

This guide is going to discuss and show you how to properly clean/maintain the water block(s) in our computer systems to keep these particular items operating at peak efficiency.

You can apply this technique to any and all types of water blocks. The only difference there will be is on how to tear apart your specific water block, this portion will vary from water block manufacturer to water block manufacturer. To keep this guide simple as possible I will only use 1 water block throughout this guide. Word of WARNING: YOU MAY VOID the warranty of your water block if you tear it apart, also you can damage your water block if you do not take your time.

Items that will be required for cleaning the water block.

Allen wrench/Screw driver (again this is dependent on your specific water block), A soft bristled tooth brush (make sure that the tooth brush is soft otherwise it can scratch the surface of your waterblock), Ketchup, Liquid Dish soap (you can also use liquid laundry detergent), finally one small tube of Silicone heat sink paste (has to be Silicone based heat sink paste).

In this picture you will see my Heat Killer Rev. 3 water block, an Allen wrench, and a tube of Radio Shack silicone thermal paste. You can still apply this cleaning technique to your water block.

Time for me to tear apart my water block. I have not used this water block in quite a while, and we can see that it has a lot of oxidization on it.

Now let's tear this water block apart, I will need to use an Allen wrench to remove the six screws holding this water block together.

Now time for me to remove the base of the water block from the top. The Heat Killer water block uses a nozzle plate to evenly distribute the fluid across the fin array of the base. This nozzle plate will have to be removed, if your water block has one remove it as well.

We need to remove any and all O-rings of our water block. The Heat Killer water block uses 2 O-rings.

Once everything been removed from the water block (O-rings/nozzle plates) we can start the cleaning process. The base of this water block also has oxidation on the inner portion of fin array.

Looking at the inner top of the Heat Killer water block, with all O-rings and nozzle plate removed. We can tell there is some oxidation here as well.

Time for us to use the ketchup.

Go ahead and put some ketch up on to the base of the water block. You can use a lot or a little bit, just make sure you put enough to cover the entire surface.

Then use your finger and smear it all over the base of the water block. The Ketchup will do most of the hard work for us, it will remove any oxidation off of the cooper.

Time for us to put ketchup on the top part of the water block. Again, make sure you have, or use enough ketchup to cover the entire inner portion of the block.

Smear the ketchup all over the inner portion of the top of the water block.

After you have done and applied the ketchup smearing on both halves of the water block, you are going to want it to set for about 30-45 minutes. Kick back and relax, watch TV, listen to the radio, or read a book.

Time for us to remove the ketchup for our water block. To do this task, we will need to move our operation up to the kitchen sink and turn on the hot water (or make the water warm, but the hotter the water is the better and easier it is to remove the ketchup). Locate the soft bristled tooth brush, put the base of the water block into the water and scrub the base clean.

Remove all of the ketchup we put on the base before continuing on.

Now locate the Liquid dish soap, and put a small amount onto the fin array of the base.

Now use the soft bristled again and scrub the base again. This remove any residue of the ketchup off the base. Do not forget to rinse the base after you scrubbed it clean. Put it aside on a soft cloth so it will not get scratched, and let air dry.

Now locate the top of the water block, and scrub away any ketchup that we put on it as well.

Just like what we did to the base of the water block, put some liquid dish soap onto the top.

Then scrub the top of the water block with the soft bristled tooth brush to remove any ketchup residue. After scrubbing, then place the top on a soft cloth to allow it to air dry thoroughly.

The outside portion of the base of the Heat Killer water block also had oxidation on it, so I went ahead and applied the ketchup on to it then scrubbed it clean as well.

Now you are probably wondering what in the world is the Silicone heat sink paste is going to be used for? Well the silicone heat sink paste is going to be used in this next portion of this guide. the rubber O-rings in our water blocks have a tendency of drying out on us as we use the water block(s). By putting a small amount of silicone heat sink paste on our rubber O-rings will keep these O-rings from drying out prematurely. S go ahead and place a small amount of silicone heat sink paste on to our index finger.

Like so.

Since the Heat Killer Rev 3 water block uses 2 O-rings I will coat the inner O-ring first. Grab the smaller O-ring and place it in between the thumb and index finger. Like how I have shown in this image.

Now be extremely Careful, gently use the other hand to pull the O-ring and coat the entire surface of the O-ring. If you pull to hard you may stretch the O-ring making it useless.

Locate the top of the water block.

Then place the small inner rubber O-ring in the respected spot (again this will water block specific as not all water blocks use an inner O-ring)

This next Portion is more of an extra and not necessarily needed, but I still recommend doing this part. I like to put a small amount of silicone heat sink paste into the outer O-ring of the water block, this will give me that little added protection to ensure leaks is kept at a minimal. Also it keeps the fluid from drying out the O-ring during the use of my water blocks.

If you choose to do this part of tweaking, just make sure you put enough silicone heat sink paste into the outer groove of the water block.

If you opted out of putting silicone heat sink paste into the groove of the water block, this step will be needed. Now time for us to turn to the outer O-ring. just like on how I did the inner O-ring, we need to coat the entire O-ring as well. Now place a small amount of silicone heat sink paste onto your index finger.

Place the outer O-ring in between your index finger and thumb.

Then gently with your free hand pull the O-ring, and coat the entire surface of this O-ring.

If you did this step correctly, the O-rings will now have a slight sheen to them.

Since I like putting some silicone heat sink paste into the groove of the water block I will continue.( If you did not put any silicone heat sink paste into the groove, now go ahead put the O-ring back in this groove, and reassemble the water block.) If you noticed as I put the O-ring back in this groove it is squeezing out silicone heat sink paste, this is ok we will remove the excess heat sink paste later.

Now it is time for us to remove any excess silicone heat sink paste off of our water blocks outer O-ring. When you remove the silicone heat sink paste off the O-ring leave a thin coat of silicone heat sink paste around the edges of the O-ring and the face of the water block, do not leave a large amount of thermal paste here. I still need to remove a bit more thermal paste before I assemble this water block.

Now locate the base of the water block to make sure it is all cleaned up properly. The base of the water block should look a whole lot better then what it did prior to me cleaning it up (If not then repeat from step one until it does). If your water block has a nozzle plate, put the nozzle plate back into its respected spot; then. reassemble the water block.

Pretty simple little task for us to clean our water block(s).

The main question I need to answer is when do we need to clean up our water cooling components? If you have no erroneous growth or any major issues with your water cooling set up, I recommend that every six months we tear apart the water cooling to clean up the water blocks, pumps, and radiators. Also replace the fluid (for sure) , and or hoses (Only if the hoses are showing signs of cracking, any abnormal stiffness, or discoloration).

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