Buying Guide to Shredders


Buying Guide to Shredders

5 Things to Know Before You Buy

A paper shredder can be a vital tool for protecting financial and personal data--which can also help protect your peace of mind. Use the right one, and you'll feel confident that you've destroyed any sensitive documents before you dispose of them, so your information won't get into the wrong hands.

Before you choose, make sure you know what you need -- with these five facts, buying will be a lot easier.

Fact #1: Size and design

From small, desktop models to larger wastebasket-sized shredders, there are machines fit for almost any space. If you're going to use it often, consider a freestanding model that you can leave out for easy access. Don't worry that it will be an eyesore: Shredders come in various colors and styles, making it possible to choose one that fits your home's décor. If you'll use it rarely, it might be easier to store in a drawer or on a shelf.

Fact #2: Cut style

The most important consideration when choosing a shredder is the machine's cut-style, that is, the exact way it shreds a piece of paper.

  • Cross-cut shredders are the most common, slicing paper vertically and horizontally and creating small, rectangular pieces that are difficult to piece back together.
  • Need extra security? Choose a micro-cut shredder, which takes the idea of "little pieces" to a whole new level. A micro-cut shredder cuts an 8 ½" x 11" piece of paper into approximately 3,000 pieces.
  • Strip-cut shredders (the ones that cut paper into spaghetti-like strips) are less common than they used to be, because the strips they create are too easy for bad guys to paste back together.

Fact #3: Capacity

Determining how much, and how often, you'll have things to shred, will help you decide how powerful a shredder you need.

A shredder's product listing will indicate both how many pages you can shred in a day, and how many pages you can shred at one time. In general, light usage in the average household is around 50 or fewer sheets a day. Shredders designed for this load can usually handle from 4 to 12 pages at one time. If you will be shredding more, look for a model that can handle a higher volume--because going over the recommended capacity can burn out the shredder's motor. Of course, you should consider what you are shredding as well: Make sure that the opening of any shredder you're considering is large enough to accommodate the size of paper you'll shred, and if you want to shred items like credit cards and CD's, double-check that the machine can handle those materials.

Fact #4: Jam-resistance

Paper jams interrupt shredding and can sometimes be difficult to untangle, so look for features that will help you avoid them: Some models sense when the paper is too thick, and will turn off before a jam occurs.

Fact #5: Indicators

Waiting until the shredder is stuffed can lead to jams and overheating, and makes for messy emptying. To avoid overstuffing, look for shredders with a clear shredder compartment or a window into the machine -- some even feature an indicator light to let you know when the compartment is reaching capacity.

And while it's hardly required, another great tool is an auto button. This will let you keep the machine on but not running, which saves you from having to turn the shredder off and on as you ready paperwork for shredding.

Armed with these must know facts for buying a shredder, you can choose the best model and rest easy knowing that your confidential information is safe.