Before You Buy a Personal Paper Shredder for Home or Home Office Use

Find the best balance of price, features and performance

Hand operating paper shredder
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Our homes generate plenty of waste paper from kids' homework and junk mail alone. Add a home office to the mix, and the paper pile grows deeper. For security reasons, many people prefer to shred much of this paper before discarding or recycling it. Personal and small office paper shredders can do the job, but not all are created equal. If you are shopping for a paper shredder for your home or home office, you'll want to find the best balance of price, features, and performance.

Here's what you need to know when shopping for personal shredders.

Strip-Cut Shredders

Strip-cut shredders, also known as straight-cut or spaghetti-cut, slice the paper into long, thin strips. Strip-cut shredders generally handle a higher volume of paper with low maintenance requirements. Shred size may vary from 1/8 to 1/2 inch, with narrower strips providing better security. Because the strips don't compress well, you'll need a large basket or more frequent emptying.

Cross-Cut Shredders

Cross-cut shredders provide additional security by cutting paper vertically and horizontally into confetti-like pieces. The shredded paper compresses better than strips, so the basket holds more cut paper. The trade-off is these shredders may require more maintenance and usually cost more. With patience, someone could reconstruct any shredded document.

Cross-cut shredders just make the job a lot more tedious.

Volume and Capacity

It's easy to burn out a shredder by overworking it. For low-volume users, personal shredders designed for 50 or so sheets per day are fine.

Low-volume or light-duty shredders may handle from 2 to 10 sheets of paper per pass. For higher volume, look beyond personal shredders to those that can handle 100 to 150 sheets per day for days on end. A shred capacity of at least 10 to 15 sheets is best unless you really want to spend time feeding in paper one piece at a time. In real-world use, most shredders do best at 1 to 2 sheets less than their stated specs.

Throat

The opening where you feed the paper into the shredder needs to be large enough to accommodate the size of paper you typically shred. An 8.75 or 9-inch throat handles unfolded letter size paper nicely. A smaller throat size requires folding the paper, but if most of your shredding is of credit card or ATM receipts, it works fine.

Extra Features

Shredders come with various combinations of features. With automatic start/stop, the shredder detects the presence of paper. Some shredders provide a light or buzzer to alert you to paper jams or a full shredder basket. Reverse feed is useful for clearing out paper jams. A clear basket or window shows when the basket needs emptying.

Some shredders are tough enough to handle staples and shred non-paper items such as credit cards.

Integrated Units

Shredders with built-in baskets or racks for plastic bags usually cost more than the stand-alone versions. These shredders come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some units might include an extra opening for inserting paper that doesn't need shredding or a see-through window to check the paper level. The main drawback is that you are tied into using a specific size basket. 

Stand-Alone Units

This type of paper shredder fits on most standard-size wastebaskets. Expandable sides allow you to adjust it for different width baskets. These are often the least expensive units. For the greatest flexibility, look for a unit that fits both round and rectangular baskets of varying sizes.

    Supplies

    Some manufacturers recommend using shredder bags.

    These bags come sized to the dimensions of specific models, although ordinary trash bags may work fine. To keep a shredder operating at peak efficiency, the blades should be oiled regularly with specially formulated shredder oil. This oil lubricates without leaving residue on the cutters that can attract paper dust and lead to clogged cutters.