How to Choose a Paper Shredder

Tips on how to select the best machine for the amount of paper you shred, your available space, and your security needs.

The world may be more and more reliant on digitally stored information, but millions of desk drawers, file cabinets, offices, and cardboard boxes in basements and attics are stuffed with papers that have private information printed on them—and there’s more being produced every second.

At the same time, theft of that information has become rampant. There are several ways to protect yourself from fraud, but when it comes to paper that you no longer need but has confidential data printed on it, there’s only one solution: shred it. That means you need to get a paper shredder.

The amount of paper you want to shred, the speed at which you want to shred it, the amount of security you desire, whether or not you want to shred credit cards or CDs, and how much room (if any) you want to devote to that shredder are the criteria for choosing the best shredder for you. Here’s are a few tips to help you as you shop.

Tough Enough for Thick Stuff

Extendable arms allow this to fit over various sizes of trash cans. Aurora

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Bank account statements, income tax returns, credit cards, password records—you name it—homes are full of documents that contain names and numbers that, if in the wrong hands, could harm you. Shredding documents before they begin stacking up is a good practice. You won’t be shredding on a daily basis, so you don’t need an expensive full-size shredder. Look for one that will fit over a standard size trash can (some have extendable arms, allowing you to custom-fit the shredder to the trash can you have at home) so you can store the shredder in a cabinet or drawer when you’re not using it.

No Paper Jams Here!

Auto-start and manual-reverse functions stop this baby from overheating and overloading. bonsaii

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If the amount of paper you need to shred can be counted in stacks rather than sheets, and the information on them is extremely sensitive, you need a shredder with three specific features. First, look for a shredder with a long continuous run time. Shredder motors can overheat, and the better ones will allow you to shred papers non-stop for a long time. Second, get a shredder that will accept batches of papers at once, so you don’t have to feed individual sheets into it. Third, the shredder should be a crosscut, meaning that it will cut the papers into confetti-like pieces for the highest level or privacy.

Great for Heavy-Duty Use

If you plan to use yours for high-volume jobs, choose a model with an automatic lubrication system. ideal

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If the paper you need to shred can be counted in pounds rather than in sheets or stacks, such as in a department or large office, and if several people will be using the shredder, invest in one that will operate continually (no overheating, no shutting down), will digest paper clips as well as staples and CDs, and will accept handfuls of paper at a time. Also look for a shredder that has an automatic oiler. Shredders need to be oiled occasionally to prevent the cutting mechanism from fouling on paper bits and dust…and if someone forgets to do it, your shredding job will come to an immediate standstill.