No need for an answer after all, I've just finished installing my Zalman and it idles at 37 degrees celcius! This is a HUGE improvement over my original 66 degrees celcius temperature.
To answer my own question - I just used ear buds which I think are called Q-Tips in america, without any rubbing alcohol. It was pretty simple to remove the original thermal paste, at first a lot rubbed off with one sweep so I had to use both sides at each end of the ear bud, but once most of it was removed I could simply dust off the rest. I think I used 4 ear buds in total.
I wasn't sure how to apply the thermal paste, and I didn't realize there was a seal on the tube so that was quite worrying
Overall I used about half of a 5p worth of paste, I applied it into the middle and then used the block of sticky back plastic you use to attach the temperature control to the side of the case to smooth it down to the bottom, and then I spread the rest of the thermal paste that collected on the block around the rest of the chip. I did this vertically and horizontally.
The screw tip thing was pretty confusing, and the step in the instruction manual that tells you to move the screws counter clockwise is pointless, just drop them on and then line them up over the nipples, then push down (I had to use both hands to keep it steady) and screw it in slightly.
Since my X850 used the first set of holes I only had to use 2 nipples, also it was a bit confusing applying the ram chip heatsinks since four are on the upper side of the grapihcs card and the other four are underneath so it looked like they were just one chip poking through at both sides, but I attached heatsinks to all of them on both sides anyway.
Overall it was a pretty easy install, and I learnt how to deal with thermal paste in the process!
Of course now I'm addicted to getting my computer as quiet as possible, so it looks like the next step is a Zalman CPU cooler
[EDIT] It seems to settle at about 44 Degrees C idle now, and after being on load quickly returns to that temperature, well worth the money.
Edited by rmco2003, 23 September 2006 - 10:58 PM.