How to clean a PC water-cooling waterblock

We show you how to remove all the gunk from the CPU and GPU waterblocks in your PC water-cooling system, and make them shiny again.

Clean waterblock channels

In this guide, we’ll show you how to clean a waterblock. Over time, the waterblocks in a PC water-cooling loop can lose their shine, and gunk can build up in their small heat-transferring fins. This not only causes them to lose cooling performance, but also means they look far less attractive than when they were new.

Oxidation and residue build-up is unavoidable, and very noticeable if you have a see-through top on your waterblock, but thankfully it can be fixed with a bit of elbow grease. However, you do need to be careful when dealing with certain plating materials, and be aware of the best tools to use for the job. In this guide, we’ll look at the best way to get your waterblocks looking like new.

At Custom PC, we’ve been modding PC cases and components since 2003, giving us loads of experience in the art of customizing your system to make it your own. We know exactly what tools you need and which methods work best.

1. Use the right cleaner

AMD GPU waterblock

Check your waterblock’s metal finish. Copper is durable and can be cleaned with most metal polishes, but nickel plating requires a less abrasive polish, so make sure you know what materials you’ll need to clean first.

2. Remove screws

Remove screws from waterblock

Most waterblocks use a single top section, so they’re usually easy to dismantle. Use the appropriate tool to remove the screws and keep them safe in a container, so you can reassemble the block later.

3. Dismantle waterblock

Dismantle waterblock

Carefully lift the top away from the block and reseat any O-rings that come loose. Depending on how much gunk is inside the block, it may need to be prised away with a little force.

4. Use brushes and air duster

Brushes and air duster

The best tools to clear out any fine channels are plastic brushes and air dusters. Start with the latter and move on to the former if there are any stubborn particles trapped in the cooling fins.

5. Use polish

Polish waterblock

Exposed copper is durable enough to be cleaned with normal metal polish such as Autosol, but if there’s a plating such as nickel, this is often quite thin, so you’ll need a less abrasive cleaner. The same company makes a chrome polish, which is perfect, as chrome is also delicate.

6. Clean block coolant channels

Clean waterblock channels

Use a plastic brush, along with some soap and warm water, to clean the waterblock, using the air duster or brush to clear the fine coolant channels over the core area.

7. Polish acrylic

Polish waterblock acrylic

You can use a plastic polish to clean the acrylic. This will remove stains and minor scratches, so it’s great for banishing coolant marks. Use a disposable cloth and rub the acrylic firmly with a good amount of pressure.

8. Reassemble waterblock

Reassemble waterblock

Give the areas you’ve polished a final wash with warm water and wipe them dry. Then clean your hands, as it’s easy to leave fingerprints inside the waterblock that can be visible through the acrylic. Now reassemble the waterblock – you can consider using plastic gloves for this bit to avoid leaving any fingerprints.

9. Flush waterblock

Flush waterblock

Finally, you’ll need to flush your waterblock in order to remove any remaining residue inside it. You can use normal coolant or deionized water, but avoid using tap water, as this can leave marks on your freshly polished waterblock, even if it’s only left for a few minutes.

That’s a wrap for our waterblock cleaning guide – enjoy the shiny looks and improved cooling performance of your newly cleaned blocks. Make sure you also check out our full guide on how to clean a water-cooling loop, which also takes you through the process of cleaning radiators and cleaning out the whole loop.

For more water-cooling ideas, take look at our guide on how to mount a reservoir, as well as our full guide on how to water-cool a PC, where we take you through all the gear and knowledge you need to build a water-cooled rig.