Dust has collected in my laptop and parents' desktops. A lot of it can be blown out with a can of air, but there are some that are stuck to the fan blades, and the fins of the heat sinks. My parents cook with a lot of oil, which I guess makes the dust stickier. It just doesn't come off with a can of air. Even after you rub them off with your fingers, there's a film of dried grease looking substance on the surface. It's also very hard to get out of the fins as well.

How do I go about removing these? Is there some kind of chemical that I can use to dissolve/loosen the sticky dust like rubbing alcohol?

2 Answers 2


The kind of dust stuck in my computer was sticky due to the oils. I found that WD40 seems to work well.

  1. Carefully spray WD40 on the surface that needs cleaning (or spray into a cap and wet the greasy/dusty surface with a Q-tip if it's something like a fan blade).
  2. Leave it to soak for 10-30 mins helps loosen/dissolve the oils.
  3. Wipe off greasy dust with a tissue.

It's a similar process with heatsinks, but you can be less careful. Spray WD40 on the fins, leave to soak, rub off the dust with your hands, and rinse everything off with soapy water.

Alcohol did not, and should not work because "like dissolves like", and alcohols are not like oils.

  • If this answers your question, you should accept it, in order to help others in future.
    – Mawg
    Sep 5, 2019 at 8:51

Good old elbow grease to start with.

My computers often end up looking like this eventually without maintenance (this one was a rescue, so she didn't get the same sort of care my regular systems get)

enter image description here, so I'm pretty familiar with cleaning out icky desktops.

Firstly, dismantle stuff as much as possible - passive components need more total cleaning than the active ones. You might want to take the opportunity to change out your thermal paste at the same time (since its a good excuse to!). I use qtips and toothbrushes to scrub out as much dust as possible from heatsinks and fans -e specially the edge of the fan blades and places where dust is built up.

Then use wipes for cleaning electronics for the rest. In theory, you could also wash heatinks in clean, sudsy water, then dry them out completely, if you remove the fans - I normally don't bother since it takes a while for systems to reach this state, and it takes a while to get that bad.

Once thats done, don't let the dust build up. Its easier to get rid of dust thats not crusted out - get a filter to keep the dust out in the first place, and do regular preventive maintenance every few months.

And of course, keep your computer switched off and covered while they are cooking (or better yet, as far away from cooking as possible), and convince your parents in investing in a cooker hood, so the grease is stuck there, not your PCs.

  • The grease accumulates on the fan blades, and the edges of the heat sink fins. I tried scrubbing with soap and brushes, but it's almost impossible for it to come off. Especially the fins, unless you take a toothpick and scrape it off. But even then, there's still residual grease :\... Would rubbing alcohol be able to dissolve/loosen this grease/dusty substance so that it'll be easier to scrub/rinse off?
    – Alex
    Sep 6, 2013 at 14:24
  • It should - i tend to abuse screenwipes for that since they're available, and tend to get grease off, and dry quickly - they use a mix of water, alcohol and some surfactants.
    – Journeyman Geek
    Sep 6, 2013 at 14:27

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