How to Fix Common Paper Shredder Problems?
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You are in the middle of your shredding session. It is you together with a paper shredder against that growing pile of old but confidential documents that were collecting dust on your desk. Your shredder is doing its job grinding through the papers, but then all of a sudden, the shredder stops working. The sheets you just fed to the shredder are half shredded, half readable, and are patiently waiting for you to solve the problem. Now what?
Like with all household items or office appliances, paper shredders can have issues that need to be fixed. These issues can present themselves in various ways.
That is why it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint where the problem is coming from, mainly when the shredder isn’t operating at all or indicating a problem that you already tried to fix yourself. For instance, a blinking LED icon for a full paper bin, even though you just emptied the wastebasket.
Read more about paper shredders in our shredder guide.
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This article will help you tackle the most common issues that your paper shredder at home and in the office could have. We will try to help you identify what problem your shredder is having, why it is having that problem, and how you can fix it. Lastly, we will also provide you with some general tips and guidelines on using and maintaining your shredder correctly to help prevent these problems from occurring regularly and prolong your shredder’s lifespan.
Recommended Shredder Tools
- Before you start fixing the problem with your shredder assure your own safety.
- NEVER put your hands or fingers near the blades of the shredder.
- Instead of using your hands use tools such as tweezers when needed, to avoid damaging the blades.
- Shredders are machines that don’t distinguish between paper and fingers.
Paper Shredding Troubleshooting FAQ
Disclaimer: Use the follow tips and tricks at your own risk.
- My shredder has jammed. How to fix and unjam a paper shredder?
- Help! My shredder stopped working. Can paper shredders overheat?
- My shredder has a mind of its own. Is there something wrong with its sensors?
- My paper shredder is making weird noises and not taking in paper. Does it need maintenance?
- How to maintain your shredder?
1. My shredder has jammed. How to fix and unjam a paper shredder?
Symptoms of a Paper Jam
How to unjam a jammed paper shredder? A jammer or clogged shredder is one of the most common and annoying problems a paper shredder can have, and it can present in a variety of ways, depending on the model and make of the shredder.
Some higher-end shredders have a light indicator that shows the users when it is jammed or even when it will jam due to exceeding the maximum load. However, paper jams are usually not too difficult to solve by yourself.
If your shredder is jammed or clogged, it may present with these symptoms:
- Not fully shredding the paper.
- Getting stuck in the reverse function.
- Making strange grinding or high pitch noises.
- Not pulling in paper or only pulling it on one side.
- Paper shredder stops working in the middle of a shredding session.
- Blinking indicators that informs you about the paper jam.
- The shredder only works in reverse.
Fixing a paper jam, there are several things you can do but remember NEVER to put your fingers near the blades or feed opening. Also, check your shredder’s user manual to see what kind of tips the manufacturer gives you to solve the paper jam.
Before you turn off the clogged shredder and go near the blades, try using the reverse function most shredders have. The reverse function can, in some cases, solve a simple jam. If this doesn’t help or your shredder doesn’t have a reverse function, try turning it off and unplugging it.
Then you can start to carefully pluck the paper shreds causing the jam out from the blades with a pair of tweezers. In some cases, gently running a vacuum cleaner parallel to the edges (within proximity but not touching them) can suck out paper dust and particles, which can cause a jam as well.
Turn on your paper shredder again and check if the paper shredder is unjammed. If it is, also lubricate the paper shredder blades to make sure the cutting blades run smoothly.
If your shredder is still jammed after applying this advice, please see the sources below, which address this problem more in-depth.
Jam proof shredders prevent a paper jam as much as possible
Watch This Youtube Video about the Jam Proof function.
Is your HSM or Fellowes shredder jammed and we were not about to help you fix it? Then you can also look for a specific HSM or Fellowes shredder troubleshooting manual on the official brand page, you can also find contact information from the brand itself here, so you can ask them for help directly. Hopefully, they will know exactly what the problem is and have a solution for it.
- wikiHow: How to Unjam a Paper Shredder – We recommend this site because it explains the unjamming process step-by-step in a bullet point format and provides helpful visual aids.
- Office Zone: Best way to clean out a jammed shredder – This site identifies three causes/types of paper jams and explains how to fix each one.
- Paper Jam: Amazon Basics 6-Sheet Cross-Cut Shredder – We advise you to watch this video as it explains and demonstrates the process of solving a jam in great detail, even more stubborn jams.
Tips from manufactures:
- Fellowes: How To Get Out Of A Paper Jam – Do you have a Fellowes shredder and is it currently jammed? This official page on Fellowes.com will help you solve your paper jam.
- Fellowes: What Causes a Paper Jam – Preventing a paper jam is always better than fixing it. In this article, fellowes explains what could be the cause of your current paper jam.
- Amazon Basics: Shredder Troubleshooting FAQ – This PDF provides five possible steps on how to clear a paper jam, as well as giving some tips on how to solve other common problems that paper shredders can have.
- Staples: How to unjam a shredder – We like this page because it provides information about the cause of paper jams and how prevent them through maintenance and proper use. Perhaps more importantly it also describes 5 basic steps to fixing a jam, accompanied with visuals and offers additional steps for paper jams that cannot be fixed with the five basic starting steps.
How to Prevent a Paper Jam:
- Know what material and how much of it your paper shredder can handle. Try to prevent shredding plastic sheets and cardboard.
- Try to avoid shredding at the maximum capacity (max. number of sheets) for your shredder. So don’t overfeed or overtax your shredder.
- Feed the paper into the shredder straight and without folds or greases.
- Don’t shred staples or paper clips (unless your shredder can handle it).
- Lubricate the cutting blades of your shredder every time you empty the paper bin or shredder bag.
- Get a paper shredder that offers jam proof technology. These shredders are equipped with sensors that stop the machine when the operator overtaxes the maximum sheet capacity the shredder can shred per pass.
2. Help! My shredder stopped working. Can paper shredders overheat?
Symptoms of Overheating
Do you have a shredder that won’t shred? Many people don’t realize that most paper shredders have a maximum run-time because their motor gets warm from shredding. The maximum run time means that if a shredder is used for a long time consecutively, the machine will eventually shut off to cool down.
The maximum run-time and cool-down period differ per shredder, but these are usually specified in the user manual for your device. There are also paper shredders that can run continuously, so there is no maximum run-time. These are heavy-duty type shredders and industrial paper shredders.
So, if your shredder has suddenly stopped running in the middle of a shredding job but doesn’t appear to be jammed, the chances are that it is taking a break to cool down. It will start up again, usually within the next 30 minutes after leaving it to cool down.
If your shredder does not start up again after the defined cool downtime, it could have a different problem, such as a paper jam or a full paper bin, which are both easily solved. However, the worst-case scenario for a shredder is when it has a technical or motor flaw, for which you will need to contact the manufacture. But let’s hope this is not the case.
Unfortunately, if your paper shredder has overheated and decided to take a timeout, you cannot do much. The shutdown is a security measure of the shredder to prevent damage to the motor of the machine. The best thing you can do is leave it alone for a while (check your manual to see how many minutes) and try again later. Also, in the future, try to prevent it from overheating too often.
If your shredder overheats often, it is probably a sign that you need a more heavy-duty shredder, which better suits your needs and can handle shredding larger amounts of paper for a more extended session. Nevertheless, here are some sources that provide more information about the matter.
- Recycling.com: 10 questions answered about paper shredders – This is one of our own articles which we recommend reading if you have more questions about shredders that you would like the answer to. This article also includes a general answer to the question: can paper shredders overheat?
- Chron: How to Keep a Paper Shredder From Getting Hot – This page has five brief recommendations on how to prevent a shredder from overheating.
- Abc office: Darn Paper Shredder Keeps Overheating – We recommend reading this page for a more in-depth explanation of why and when paper shredders overheat.
Tips from manufactures:
- Amazon Basics: Shredder Troubleshooting FAQ – We recommend this document again if you want to find out more about common reasons for why your shredder may not power on or work at all, including a shut down for thermal protection.
How to Prevent Overheating:
- Spread out your shredding activities over the day or week (Don’t do all your shredding at once).
- Shred fewer sheets of paper at a time.
- Get a shredder that can handle your shredding needs.
3. My shredder has a mind of its own. Is there something wrong with its sensors?
Symptoms of Sensor Issues
Sometimes paper shredders can have problems that cause them to act as though they are haunted or have a mind of their own. What is meant by this is that they may not stop after shredding (continually running in “Auto / On” mode), randomly start shredding by themselves, or indicates that the paper bin is full or the door is open when they are not.
These problems can be related to an issue with the shredder’s sensors and are usually triggered by dust or dirt, which partially block one or more of them. Cleaning these sensors usually does the trick and resolves the problem.
The most straightforward way to fixing these problems caused by a dirty sensor is to clean them, but this may not be as easy as it sounds because the sensors can be hidden inside your shredder.
A paper shredder can have several different sensors. Most of them are safety precautions for the user or to prevent the shredder from damaging itself.
High-end shredders have various sensors and indicators, but the main ones are:
- Load indicator sensor – registers when paper is being inserted.
- Bin / bag full sensor – indicates when the paper bin is full.
- Door sensor – shows when the paper bin or door is not closed or properly attached to the shredder.
Cleaning a dirty sensor is not always an easy fix because different shredders have sensors in different spots, and some are easier to reach than others. However, the sensors’ location can generally be found in the user manual, and once you have found the sensor’s location in the manual, you can proceed to turn off the shredder or unplug it completely.
Afterward, using a flashlight, you can search for the sensor on the shredder and use a vacuum cleaner, microfiber cloth, straw, or pipet to clean off the dust and dirt. After the sensors are clean and the shredder put back together, you can turn it on again, and hopefully, the problem is solved. If you would like to read more about the process of cleaning your shredder and finding the sensors, here are some sources that may help:
- Abc office: Paper Shredder Sensors, Alarms & Indicator Lights Explained – We advise this page if you are interested in finding out more about all the different sensors, alarms, and indicators that paper shredders can have.
- Document Dynamix: Shredder Fault Guide – We recommend reading this page if you are looking for handy and expert steps to solve sensory issues your shredder may be having.
- How to Fix a Paper Shredder that won’t STOP – This video briefly demonstrates one possible method for home users to clean their load indicator sensor.
Tips from manufactures:
- Amazon Basics: Shredder Troubleshooting FAQ – We also recommend this troubleshooting page for a brief explanation on what can be used to clean a shredder’s sensors.
How to Prevent Sensory Issues:
- Clean your shredder regularly.
- Don’t just oil your blades when cleaning your shredder, also use a vacuum cleaner and microfiber cloths.
4. My paper shredder is making weird noises and not taking in paper. Does it need maintenance?
Symptoms of Needing a Maintenance
Like most appliances, paper shredders need to have the occasional maintenance to keep up their routine. Maintenance is essential for shredders used frequently, such as paper shredders used in an office environment. However, here the maintenance is quickly neglected, which can directly reflect in the shredder’s performance.
Signs that a shredder is in desperate need of a maintenance include:
- Shredder running but not taking/pulling in paper.
- Paper not being shredded properly.
- Shredder hesitating to start or producing high pitched noise, grinding noise, or more noise than usual.
- Paper shredder runs slower than it used to.
But don’t worry these symptoms are usually quite easy to resolve.
The proper solution for these symptoms is giving your office or home shredder well-earned and thorough maintenance. Maintenance for your shredder in this situation ultimately means giving it a deep cleaning.
- This process should be started by briefly activating the reverse function to loosen up any paper fibers or particles left behind.
- Then turn off or unplug the shredder and clean the paper bin.
- After you have emptied, cleaned, dried, and placed the container back, you carefully vacuuming along the opening slit where you usually insert paper, but make sure not to touch the shredder’s blades.
- Using a vacuum will remove any paper dust left between the blades and the edges of the opening.
- The final step is lubricating the blades of the shredder with official shredder oil. This will help your shredder’s blades move smoothly and shred well.
Once full maintenance has been done, the symptoms mentioned above should disappear right away. Regular maintenance will also help your shredder live a long and healthy life and minimize the number of problems it faces along the way. For further information on how to clean your paper shredder, look at the following recommended links.
- Recycling.com: How to oil a paper shredder? – This is one of our own pages in which we explain, in great detail, how to best oil your paper shredder and what items you need to do this.
- Shredder Select: Cleaning Tips for your Paper Shredder – We recommend this page for further information about how to clean your shredder. The page focuses on the cleaning steps before oiling the blades.
- wikiHow: How to Oil a Shredder – This page also does a good job of explaining the step-by-step process of oiling your shredder with visual aids. It explains two different methods, both consisting of five or six steps.
- Shredder oil and lubricant sheets – how to maintain a paper shredder – We recommend watching this video for a short but professional explanation of the importance of oiling your shredder and the different methods for doing it.
Tips from manufactures:
- Amazon Basics: Shredder Troubleshooting FAQ – We recommend this document again for a brief explanation on how to clean a shredder and an explanation of what products should NOT be used in the cleaning process.
How to Prevent Problems from Poor Maintenance:
- Schedule regular cleaning a head of time.
- Hang up a brief user manual by the shredder with dos and don’ts.
How to maintain your shredder?
To keep your paper shredder happy and healthy, it is essential to use it correctly and maintain it well. It should be noted that heavy-duty shredders, which can generally handle more when it comes to shredding, tend to have fewer problems like jamming, overheating and do not need maintenance as often as cheaper home shredders.
Nevertheless, by using your shredder correctly and maintaining it well, you will minimize the number of problems it has and maximize its lifespan, therefore keeping both you and the shredder happy.
Here are some tips on how you can keep yourself and your shredder happy:
- Know what your shredder can handle and don’t exceed its limits
- Know what materials the shredder can or can’t shred
- Know if your paper shredder can shred paperclips and staples
- Know the number of paper sheets it can shred simultaneously
- Spread out your shredding to give your shredder time to cool down
- Clean and oil your paper shredder regularly and empty the paper bin when approaching full
- Buy a shredder that suits your needs
Replace your old shredder?
Did our tips and tricks not solve the problems you have with your paper shredder? Well, it could be that your paper shredder is a bit worn out. It just doesn’t shred your confidential documents the way it did when it was brand new. Back in the good old days, it sliced through forms like they were butter.
You could feed it almost anything without a problem. But now, your shredder looks dusty, old, and tired. This could mean that it is time to replace your old shredder with a new one.
We can help you find a new paper shredder that suits your needs perfectly. Check out our paper shredder page, where you can find the best paper shredders. Or read our paper shredder buying guide for more tips on shredding machines.
Recommended Shredder Tools
By Recycling.com/ 18 January 2021