Ahead of our upcoming round-up of the best thermal paste
We’ve been testing a whole bunch of alternatives to see how they fare in the real world. A stalwart of the PC gaming world, thermal paste (also known as TIM) may well be all you need to stand your most powerful gaming PC parts on their own, but what happens if you run out or find yourself in a pinch?
While it’s not necessarily a household name, thermal paste is a common tech staple, and you might even find yourself using it for DIY repairs. So, what better excuse to test out some alternatives than the prospect of a DIY paste job? After all, it’s not just a matter of aesthetics – if your CPU is running too hot, it could damage your components or shorten their lifespan.
We’ll be looking at the best thermal paste alternatives when you absolutely need them, with the reference point being Zalman ZM-STG2M. We had the Intel Core i9-12900K processor under full load for 10 minutes, using commercial Zalman paste, and a DeepCool AK620 cooler to keep the CPU under 80 degrees Celsius.
Here are the best thermal paste alternatives:
1. Fucidin ointment
Fucidin ointment, a topical antibiotic cream for a variety of skin issues, emerged as the best thermal paste alternative. It performed almost identically to commercially available paste, with temperatures only exceeding 80 degrees Celsius under load.
2. Love Gel
This one might come as a surprise to some of you, but “love gel”, also known as Lubrin, is a silicone-based personal lubricant intended for use during intercourse. We have it on good authority from a PC Game Spotlight editor that it’s a fine thermal paste as well.
3. Tomato ketchup
We know what you’re thinking, but it’s true – tomato ketchup is actually a fine thermal paste alternative, apparently. It’s thick and goopy, but it does the job by spreading heat evenly, and it’s inexpensive to boot.
4. Hand cream
Another rather unexpected entry on the list, but trust us – hand cream is a perfectly serviceable substitute for thermal paste. It’s a bit more gooey than some of the other options here, but it spreads heat out well and keeps your CPU nice and cool.
Sunblock, or sunscreen if you’re in the US, is a staple of the beach bag, but it can also make for a decent thermal paste substitute. Given the less demanding conditions it’ll face compared to paste used in a PC, you might even find it easier to apply, which is always a plus.
6. BBQ sauce
Perhaps the most surprising entry on the list, BBQ sauce is a real letdown as a thermal paste alternative. We can’t quite put our finger on what it is – the sauce appears to be of a sufficient viscosity, and it even smells nice – but it just doesn’t perform well at all.
7. Baking soda
Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a household staple that you might well have around for cooking purposes. It’s another thick alternative, but it helps spread heat much more evenly, and it’s cheap enough that you can use it without too much guilt should it render your CPU inoperable.
8. Super Glue
Super glue, also known as instant glue in the UK, is a sticky alternative that might be more trouble than it’s worth. Some brands are electrically conductive, and if this is the case with the kind you’re using, you could cause irreparable damage to your components.
It can also boil under prolonged heating, changing form or even evaporating completely. Some instant glues are also water-soluble, so they might not be suitable for use with water-cooling setups.