It is not enough to protect just your online data, or digital in general. You might be surprised how much sensitive information is thrown into garbage in form of paper. And such garbage is then accessible to anybody who is interested, so it can easily fall into the wrong hands. There is even a term dumpster diving for such activity. And you can easily avoid it with a shredding machine.
What is Paper Shredder?
A paper shredder is a mechanical device used to cut the paper into strips or small particles. People use shredders to destroy sensitive documents (bills, bank account statements, credit cards, …) with the goal to make their recovery impossible and therefore to protect your personal or company confidential data. Having a shredder minimizes the risk of becoming a victim and gives you peace of mind.
There are also other types of shredders working on completely different principles. For example combustion, chemical decomposition, or composting for disposing of the shreds. These are, however, used for special purposes and not really designated for common end-users.
You might also be surprised that shredders are used not only for security (even though it is one of the earliest applications), but there are other applications like waste reduction (up to 75%), package filling to protect well during a transport, animal bedding or even insulation for construction of buildings (popular in Japan).
How to choose
The purpose of each paper shredder is the same, but they differ greatly in their features and specifications. There are simple models for home use and commercial products focused on government or office use.
If you are selecting the best shredder for your needs you should consider several factors:
- What are you shredding?
- What type of security level do you expect?
- How much and how often?
- Size and noise
- Extra features
What are you shredding?
Practically all products are able to destroy paper documents. But you might need to shred also credit cards or CD/DVD media. In such cases, special slots are usually provided.
If you often work with documents with paper staples and clips, then make sure your shredder can handle those without getting damaged. Otherwise, you need to be very careful and check everything before inserting it into the machine.
What type of security level do you expect?
Basically, the more sensitive information you need to destroy (security level), the smaller particles should go out of the machine. The most common types of paper shredders are based on the size and shape of the shred they produce:
- Strip-Cut – documents with low confidentiality
- Cross-Cut – highly confidential documents
- Micro-Cut – top-secret documents
Strip-CutMeets security levels 1, 2. While it offers the lowest protection, these machines are very simple (reliable), fast and cheap. A typical A4 sheet is cut into ~34 long strips (1/4″ wide).
You should be aware that if somebody really wants to recover your documents, he can just buy a device called strip-scanner. It enables him to re-create a striped sheet in a matter of minutes. You can, however, make it significantly harder by mixing and crinkling the chads (output) when throwing out the wastebin.
Cross-CutThis is the next step for security levels 3, 4, 5, sometimes referred to as Confetti-cut because of the particles’ diamond-like shape. Such devices contain two blades rotating in opposite directions to cut the paper into small cross-sectional shreds of around 360 pieces (3/16″ x 1-27/32″). Usually priced in mid-range it is the best home paper shredder, great for destroying highly confidential documents.
Micro-CutMicro cut paper shredders offer the highest level of security. The principle is the same as for Cross-Cut types (two blades rotating in opposite directions), but the result is 2000-3000 pieces of paper (5/32″ x 15/32″). While security is on a very high level, these machines are expensive and slow. You can find some of the best micro-cut models in our paper shredders reviews section.
How much and how often?
Sheet capacity refers to the number of sheets you can shred at the same time (6, 8, 12, …).
Continuous run time is the maximum time a shredder can run in a single session. This time is limited because a lot of heat is produced during shredding. When the machine becomes too hot, it indicates (LED light) that a cool down is required.
Cooldown time specifies how long it takes to cool down (after a continuous run) and be ready for the next session. In case you are going to share a paper shredder with other people or colleagues, then prefer longer continuous and shorter cool down time.
Based on how many sheets of paper per day need to be destroyed (average), the following classes are defined:
- Personal: less than 100 sheets/day
- Small Office: less than 1000 sheets/day
- Office: less than 5000 sheets/day
- Department / Industrial: more than 5000 sheets/day
Size and noise
There are machines of various sizes available. Bigger machines offer increased bin capacity (specified in gallons) – keep in mind that Strip-Cut shredders fill up the bin twice as fast as Cross-Cut. Consider also a planned location to determine the size.
Entry-level models usually stay on top of a waste bin (that comes with the shredder). If you want to empty it, you have to unplug and put the device unit by side (trying not to create much mess around), then carry the bin to a dumpster or another trash can. More expensive top paper shredders use pullout bins that make the process easier and reduce the mess made.
Location is related to noise as well because it is not pleasant to have a noisy device in the middle of a small office where several people work.
A noise of paper shredders is specified in decibels (dB). The higher the dB, the louder the product will be. And decibels are on an exponential scale, so a small change can mean a big sound difference. The best shredding machines can achieve less than 55 dB. For reference you should know the following values:
- 35 dB: quiet library
- 60 dB: normal conversation (3 feet distance between people)
- 85 dB: city traffic (inside of a car)
If you intend to use a paper shredder at home and have kids (or pets), then either place it out of their reach or keep the device unplugged when not in use. Kids are curious and like to imitate adults, so they are interested when they see you using such a machine. Even though the shredder opening is designed as narrow as possible, the children’s fingers are very small, so they are at risk of a serious injury. In addition to the risk of getting hurt they might destroy important documents or damage the device by putting inappropriate objects inside.
You can consider a device with additional security features:
- Safety sensor — It ensures that a machine immediately shuts down when hands are too close to the entry slot. It works by sensing the electric field around humans and larger pets. As soon as the electric field is removed, the shredder continues.
- Safety lock – Simply puts a machine into a safe, inactive mode to prevent small children from activating it.
- Slimmer entry – Reduces the chance of fingers getting pulled into the shredding entry. Another way to prevent it is to use inflexible material to prevent the opening from widening when under pressure.
- Safety flap – Covers cutters when the shredder head is removed from the wastebasket to prevent injuries.
- Interlock safety switch – This switch makes sure the machine will not operate when the head is removed from the wastebasket.
Paper shredders intended for personal use start at about $20. Higher-capacity machines suited for office work can cost $400 or more. These offer longer duty cycles, noise suppression technology, larger sheet capacities, and higher security ratings.
Only you can decide how much is your confidential data worth. Consider damage which might be caused if it falls into wrong hands and would be used against you or your company. With this in mind, you should realize that a shredder price is not that high at all.
Also do not choose the cheapest product available as those are usually not reliable and tend to break when used more often. Always check the product ratings and reviews before buying.
If your budget is higher then try to consider buying rather multiple cheaper paper shredders than a single expensive one. This way you can install them in several locations to be always as close as possible for people who use them to save their time of carrying documents to another end of the building. And if one machine is in use by somebody else, then it is convenient to just find another available one.
To have an idea about the price of the best-rated paper shredder in each category (strip-cut, cross-cut, and micro-cut), you can check the links below:
Paper shredders were invented (patented) by Abbot Augustus Low more than a hundred years ago (1909) and manufactured later (1935) in Germany. Since then manufacturers have come up with a lot of extra features improving the machine’s efficiency, safety, and user convenience. You might want to consider some of those when selecting a paper shredder on the market:
- Jam proof technology – Such a shredder is able to detect input thickness and avoid paper jams by rejecting sheets that are fed over capacity. Another way of handling jamming is to use more powerful motors to shred even jumbled or misfed paper sheets.
- Silent operation – Very quiet paper shredder is appropriate for shared workspaces or at home without bothering other people with noise.
- Energy savings – Power-saving functions like a sleep mode when not in use.
- Mess reduction – Automatic cleaning cycle that prevents waste build-up on cutters. There is usually a sensor and indicator that lets the user know when to empty the bin or turn on a cleaning cycle.
- Security features – As described in the section above, there are safety sensors and locks available to prevent kids or pets from getting hurt or damaging the machine.
There are several shredding companies offering to do the job for you. Nowadays, however, as the prices of paper shredders dropped to a very low level, these machines are very affordable and easy to use. Therefore there is no reason forcing you to trust somebody you don’t know to take care of your confidential documents. Having a shredder in your office also allows you to destroy materials immediately without waiting for a company’s courier to pick them up.
Gain your customer’s trust
If you have any business customers, it is very likely you possess their personal information. You are responsible for it and held accountable for any damage caused by theft or misuse of such data. Having and using paper shredders allows you to inform your customers that their information will stay safe from a breach or transfer to any third party.
Be environment friendly
Shredding documents significantly reduces the amount of waste as paper in small particles takes much less space. It also helps with recycling as the paper has a designated waste bin by default.
By now you should have enough information to know how a paper shredder benefits you personally or your business and how it works. You should also be confident to select the best buy paper shredder product for your needs. You might want to read our best paper shredder reviews about individual products or just our summary Infographics with a quick checklist.
After you buy a paper shredder read the manufacturer’s manual carefully. Learn what kind of materials can be shredded and how. It is important to know how to put documents inside (certain angle vs. straight, paper orientation) to not only avoid paper jams but also to achieve the highest level of security – stripes cutting lines of text instead of words are useless from the security point of view. Also, make sure to clean and maintain the machine to make sure you can use it for a long time.