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What Should I Consider When Buying a Paper Shredder?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A paper shredder is a security device that chops up paper into small strips or confetti-like pieces, making it difficult for the individual pieces to be put back together. Confidential documents are run through shredders to prevent the information from being leaked, and many offices also use these devices to compact paper before putting it out for recycling, and to ensure that no confidential information slips out. While the basic design of a paper shredder is the same whether it is a desktop version or an industrial shredder, there are a few considerations to take into account when picking one out to make sure that you get the right tool for the job. You'll want to consider how much paper it can handle, what type of shred you want, if you need it to handle things other than paper, and if it has a warranty.

The first thing to think about is volume. Most people end up shredding approximately twice the amount of paper they think they will after purchasing a shredder, so try to come up with an accurate estimate of how many sheets you will need to shred per day, and how many sheets the shredder should be able to handle at a time. A small personal paper shredder may only be only to shred one to five pieces of paper at once, and can handle around 20 uses per day before it begins to struggle. A heavy volume industrial shredder, on the other hand, can shred between 5,000-36,000 sheets of paper a day, depending on configuration. Your needs may lie somewhere in the middle; with a medium volume personal shredder, for example, which can shred 50-100 sheets of paper each day.

The next consideration is the type of shred you want. Most basic paper shredders use a strip cut system, which turns each sheet of paper into thin ribbons. High security shredders use a cross cut mechanism, however, which twists the paper while cutting it, reducing it to small scraps. Cross cut shredders are more expensive, but if you are handling especially sensitive material, you may want to consider purchasing one.

In some cases, a shredder can handle more than paper. If you keep secure data on diskettes or compact discs, for example, you may benefit from a heavy materials shredder, which can also handle thicker weights of paper and cardboard. You should also consider the maximum paper size that you will need to shred. Most basic shredders only handle paper up to legal size, and if you handle confidential material of tabloid size or larger, you may have to cut the sheets by hand before shredding them, which can be irritating in high volume.

Finally, check on the quality of the paper shredder and the warranty. Purchase one with a strong motor that should not wear out, and do not be afraid to question staff about how well the shredder will hold up in the long term. Make sure to get directions about care, as well, because a well-lubricated machine will last longer and shred more effectively.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By bagley79 — On Nov 03, 2012

I am kind of paranoid when it comes to personal financial information floating around. I have a paper shredder at home that shreds everything into thin ribbons. If there is a document that is especially sensitive, I will even go to the trouble to cut up those thin strips again. I should just buy a cross cut shredder that turns the pieces into small scraps of paper. I think this is a much more efficient way of shredding documents that you don't want to take any chances on.

By golf07 — On Nov 02, 2012

When I worked at a bank I had access to a lot of private financial information. I had a basket under my desk where I would store the papers until I took them to the shredding room that was onsite. I didn't have to actually shred the papers, but left them in a special room where it was done for me.

I usually didn't take the basket of papers to be shredded to the room until the basket was full. There were many other employees in the bank who did the same thing, but now I wonder just how safe that was. I think it would have been better to take care of the papers on a daily basis.

I really don't know if an employee of the bank shredded all the papers or if this service was hired out. For companies that have a lot of private information like that, they would need to have very large paper shredders or pay for a service to do it for them.

By andee — On Nov 02, 2012

I also have a smaller paper shredder and have no problem with it as long as I am only shredding 2-3 pieces of paper at a time. This shredder is also supposed to shred credit cards, but it usually struggles so I just cut them up instead. One disadvantage of a small shredder is the basket fills up so quickly and I have to empty it pretty frequently.

By honeybees — On Nov 01, 2012

I bought a small, cheap paper shredder several years ago for my home office and it has held up well. I keep this right next to my desk and as I am going through the mail or paying bills, I have the shredder right next to me. That way I shred papers as I need to instead of stacking them up and doing a big batch at one time.

This small paper shredder machine is perfect for my use at home, and I wouldn't want anything bigger or bulkier sitting around. It is easy to shred things as I go, and if I am doubt about anything being confidential I just put it through the shredder and no longer worry about it.

By burcinc — On Sep 06, 2012

@turkay1-- Whatever you decide to get, I suggest that you make sure it won't overheat. I got one of those home paper shredders and if I tried to shred more than five pages, it would overheat and make really weird noises. It was just not good.

I think the smaller the paper shredder is, the more likely it will overheat and break down. And most don't have more than one year warranty. It's better to get one that has more capacity.

By serenesurface — On Sep 06, 2012

@turkay1-- What's your price range and security requirement?

There are actually some really affordable paper shredders on the market now that are heavy duty. Quiet paper shredders tend to cost a little more but they're still in the affordable range.

I think you would do well with a shredder that has a basket capacity of around five gallons and which can shred paper, CDs and credit cards. You can get one under a hundred dollars that's relatively quiet.

By candyquilt — On Sep 05, 2012

I want a paper shredder for home use but I'm really confused about what I'm looking for.

I know for sure that I want something relatively quiet. The one I use at work is so loud that you can hear it from five offices away. I definitely don't want something so loud for the home.

I don't expect to be shredding more than five pages a day but I think it would be nice to have something that can occasionally handle more than that. And I wouldn't say no to a shredder that can actually shred a credit card. It's so hard to cut up a credit card by hand.

Okay so any suggestions for a paper shredder that can do all this for me?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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