Updated May 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best paper shredders

More and more, privacy is becoming the primary concern of many individuals. Any document, even junk mail, can contain enough information to allow some unscrupulous opportunist an opening to inconvenience or damage your life. Paper shredders are essential appliances that have become staples in most homes.

When considering a paper shredder, you want one that offers a cross-cut or micro-cut for the best protection. If you need to shred credit cards or CDs, you will need to be sure the model you pick has that ability. A shredder that is easy to use, has overload protection, and can shred a number of pages at once at an acceptable speed is ideal.

A shredder is a great way to dispose of unwanted paper, especially if they are sensitive or private documents.

Types of paper shredders

Strip-cut

Strip-cut shredders slice paper into long, straight shreds. While this does offer some degree of security, it's not too hard for someone to reassemble shredded documents, recovering the data.

More thorough types of paper shredder have made this variety all but obsolete.

Cross-cut or diamond cut

Cross-cut or diamond-cut shredders cut paper crossways, as well as lengthwise.

This results in much smaller chunks that would be too tricky to reassemble for all but the most determined of criminals.

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Expert Tip
Shredding lots of paper at a time generates significant dust, so consider either wearing a mask when you’re emptying out your shredder or doing it outside or somewhere with a lot of ventilation.
BestReviews Electronic Expert

Micro-cut

If you want the gold standard of paper shredders, opt for a micro-cut shredder.

This masticates paper into tiny, confetti-like chips, making it virtually impossible to reassemble a document in any meaningful way.

Considerations for selecting a paper shredder

What will you shred?

Basic paper shredders deal with paper alone, but many mid-range and high-end home shredders can also tackle items such as credit cards and CDs.

Some of these use special attachments for dealing with plastics, and only cut them into thin strips. The best models will micro-cut or cross-cut them.

How much will you shred at once?

Luckily for anyone who has to shred a lot of paper in one go, shredders process more than one sheet of paper at a time. The amount of sheets a paper shredder can deal with is referred to as "sheets per pass."

Smaller models may only be able to take on two to four sheets per pass, whereas more hardcore models can tackle 20 or more sheets per pass.

Expert Tip
Remember that not all paper is the same, and some paper types are thicker than others. So when a shredder says it can shred ten pages per minute, assume those are ten thin pages. In general, it’s best to spend some time getting to know your shredder and how much paper it can handle at once. Avoid overstuffing it--that can cause unwieldy paper jams.
BestReviews Electronics Expert
Some paper shredders can tackle whole multi-page documents, even when they're still held together with staples or paperclips. Not having to remove staples can save a lot of time when shredding a large volume of paperwork.

How long will your shredding session last?

All shredders have a run time or "duty cycle." This is how long the machine can operate continuously before switching off to cool down.

Smaller models designed for light home use may have duty cycles as short as two minutes, whereas units made for heavy-duty use may have duty cycles of 40 minutes or more.

Will you want multiple shredding sessions in quick succession?

As mentioned above, paper shredders need to cool down after each duty cycle. This probably isn't a big issue for home use (unless you like to save up items for shredding and tackle a large pile in one go), but for office use, a long cool-down time can be prohibitive.

Most paper shredders have cool-down periods between 20 and 40 minutes.

How fast do you need to shred documents?

Shredding speed is generally measured in feet per minute (FPM).

A home shredder can tackle between 5 and 10 FPM, on average, whereas heavy-duty models designed for office use may be able to shred 30 FPM or more.

Micro-cut paper shredders tend to run at a smaller amount of feet per minute since it takes longer to cut each sheet into tiny pieces, but what they lack in speed they make up for with security.

Paper shredder maintenance

All shredders require regular care. No matter which model you choose, you'll want to use oil on the gears and shake loose all of the microscopic extra bits of paper. 

Most shredder malfunctions and problems come from users who do no maintenance. If you stopped getting oil changes for your car, eventually it would stop running. With a few basic tools, you can keep your shredder running well for years.

Shredder Oil: Fellowes Powershred Performance Shredder Oil - This oil comes with a long tip, which allows you to evenly apply it on your shredder gears.

Lubricant Sheet: Amazon Basics Paper Shredder Sharpening & Lubricant Sheets - If you want to oil and sharpen your shredder blades in one step, these sheets will help you maintain your shredder in less time and with less mess.

    Paper shredder prices

    You can find paper shredders to suit all budgets, but expect to pay significantly more for heavy-duty machines, compared to those designed for light use.

    Basic Micro-Cut Shredders

    These can cost as little as $30 to $50, but the most inexpensive models will have extremely short duty cycles and will only be able to tackle a small amount of sheets per pass. Some are so compact you have to fold a sheet of A4 paper to fit it in.

    Basic Cross-Cut Shredders

    These cost roughly $20 to $30. Even basic models are likely to take on more sheets per pass and have longer duty cycles than micro-cut shredders of a similar quality. Many can also deal with CDs and credit cards.

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    Expert Tip
    If you’re not sure if you should shred something or keep it for your records, consider digitizing it with a scanner and then shredding your physical copy.
    BestReviews Electronics Expert

    Mid-range Micro-Cut Shredders

    Expect to pay around $50 to $100 for one of these. These have much longer duty cycles and can shred more sheets at once than basic models, but most still won't be quite heavy-duty enough for office use.

    Mid-range Cross-Cut Shredders

    These cost roughly $30 to $90. Most of these models are more than sufficient for home use, and some may even be fast and powerful enough for use in a small office.

    High-end Micro-Cut Shredders

    These cost between $100 and $300. Those on the top end of the spectrum will have about all the extra features you can think of, plus a formidable duty cycle and sheets per pass, but even the less expensive models are more than enough shredder for all but the most heavy-duty environments.

    High-end Cross-Cut Shredders

    These cost about $90 to $200 (though you can pay much more for commercial-grade models). These models have all the bells and whistles, shred quickly, can take on a large amount of sheets per pass, have long duty cycles, and fast cool down periods.

    Paper shredder tips

    Want to shred like a pro? Check out these tips.

    • Keep an eye on the amount of paper in your shredder's wastebasket. Overload it and you can damage the motor or cause jams. Models with a clear viewing window are invaluable.
    • Paper shredders with pull-out bins are much easier and more convenient to empty, compared to the kind where you have to lift the entire shredding mechanism off the waste bin.
    • Unless you only want to shred the odd document here and there, pay attention to the length of each paper shredder's duty cycle — some are frustratingly short.
    • Most paper shredders are much more effective when you shred one or two sheets less than the maximum sheets per pass. So, if a shredder can tackle 12 sheets per pass, try feeding no more than 10 or 11 in one go.
    • If you have kids or pets, we recommend a model that has a safety shut-off feature. This automatically switches off the shredder if fingers or paws get too close to the blades.
    • Empty the waste bin of paper before shredding credit cards or CDs. Shredded paper is recyclable, whereas CDs and credit cards may not be (depending on your local recycling rules), and you don't want to spend hours picking chips of credit card out of a full bin of paper.
    Clean out your paper shredder bin at frequent intervals, lubricate and sharpen the blades, and remove any lodged paper bits or pins from the machine to keep it working smoothly.

    FAQ

    Q. Are paper shredders safe to use?

    A. Yes, paper shredders are very safe. Despite having extremely sharp blades inside, modern paper shredders boast a range of safety features, including guards to protect fingers, tucked away switches so you can't accidentally turn them on, and automatic switch-off to avoid overheating.

    Q. What extra features should I look out for in a paper shredder?

    A. Some features aren't essential, but can be nice to have. If you want a top-notch shredder, here are some additional features to look for:

    • Overload protection (to avoid jamming)

    • Full wastebasket indicator

    • Quiet operation

    • Safety lockout

    • Manual reverse

    • Automatic document feeder

    • Pull-out bin

    Q. How small will a paper shredder cut my documents?

    A. This depends on which make and model of shredder you choose. There's no standard size for micro-cuts, cross-cuts, or strips, so you have to check the manufacturer's specifications for the exact dimensions.

    5 features to consider when buying a paper shredder

    Speed – if you have lots of employees shredding through numerous documents, it's important that your shredder keep up.
    Power – consider what types of objects you will be shredding, like credit cards or CDs.
    Capacity – if you don't want to empty out your shredder multiple times a day, look for one that has a bigger bin.
    Ease of use – some shredders require you to remove the motor to empty the machine while others have slide-out bins.
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