Find the best paper shredder
Buying a document shredder sounds like an easy task, but there are quite some things to keep in mind. That’s why we recommend to read our buying guide thoroughly so you know what to take into consideration when selecting your paper shredder. In the guide below we inform you all about it.
What to look for when getting a paper shredder?
It is important to understand the performance, features and specifications of a paper shredder before buying it. This avoids later disappointments. You don’t want to end up with a shredder that needs to cool down after 2 minutes of shredding and can’t handle more than three sheets of paper per feed when you need to shred regularly at your office with multiple colleagues. To prevent you from buying the wrong shredder we’ve made this paper shredder buying guide.
Table of contents:
- Type of shredders: strip-cut, cross-cut or micro-cut
- DIN 66399 security levels
- Type and number of users
- Sheet capacity
- Run time and cool down time
- Bin or bucket capacity
- Type of bin or container
- Calculate how fast a shredder is
- What do you want to shred
- Manual feed or auto feed shredder
- Important safety features
- Paper jam prevention
- Shredder maintenance
- Noise level
- Energy savings
- What are popular shredder manufacturers?
Type of shredders: strip-cut, cross-cut and micro-cut
Not all paper shredders produce the same cut. That’s why paper shredders are categorized in three types to differentiate them from each other:
- Strip-cut or Ribbon-cut or Spaghetti-cut or Straight-cut
- Cross-cut or Confetti-cut or Diamond-cut
- Micro-cut or Particle-cut or Security-cut
We recommend a cross-cut or micro-cut shredder to shred confidential documents. That is security level DIN P-3 or higher.
A strip-cut shredder is a basic paper shredder for shredding non-confidential documents. It shreds paper vertically in long narrow strips that are fairly readable.
- Low level of security
- For shredding non-sensitive documents
- Long narrow vertical paper strips, like spaghetti
- Cuts only vertically
- Approximately 39 strips per shredded document (size: A4)
- Security level: DIN P-1, DIN P-2
A cross-cut shredder is a paper shredder for shredding confidential documents. It shreds paper diagonally from both corners in short particles that are barely readable.
- Medium level of security
- For shredding sensitive documents
- Short and narrow paper shreds
- Cuts diagonally from both corners
- Approximately 400 particles per shredded document (size: A4)
- Security level: DIN P-3, DIN P-4
A micro-cut shredder is an advanced paper shredder for shredding highly confidential documents. It shreds paper diagonally from both corners in square shaped particles that are almost unreadable.
- High level of security
- For shredding highly sensitive documents
- Tiny square shaped paper shreds
- Cuts diagonally from both corners
- Approximately 3,700 particles per shredded document (size: A4)
- Security level: DIN P-5 or higher
So, what is the best type of shredder? It all depends on how much security you need, the type of documents you want to shred and how important the information is to you or your business. For most situations a DIN P-3, DIN P-4 or DIN P-5 shredder is a good option to safely dispose papers and documents.
DIN 66399 security levels
When you look at the specifications of a paper shredder you often see the security level with a DIN classification next to it. For example: DIN P-1, or DIN P-3. But what does it mean? The DIN P-level is part of the official German DIN 66399 standard (since 2012) which is the international standard for secure shredding of data media developed by the Deutsches Institut für Normung (DIN) which translates to the German Institute for Standardization.
DIN 66399 (before DIN 32757) classifies the security levels for six media categories. Such as hard drives (H), optical media (O) and paper based products (P). For paper there are seven security levels. The levels range from DIN P-1 to DIN P-7. The higher the DIN level the smaller the paper particles become after shredding a document, see more here.
The seven security levels are divided in thee protection classes. Some security levels overlap two protection classes:
Protection class 1
- Normal security for internal data
- Security level: DIN P-1, DIN P-2, DIN P-3
Protection class 2
- High security for confidential data
- Security level: DIN P-3, DIN P-4, DIN P-5
Protection class 3
- Very high protection for confidential and secret data
- Security level: DIN P-4, DIN P-5, DIN P-6, DIN P-7
For most shredding needs we recommend a paper shredder that falls in protection class 2 with a DIN P-3, DIN P-4 or DIN P-5 security level. These shredders suffice most requirements for secure shredding of confidential documents. Read more about the DIN 66399 security levels.
Type and number of users
Do you occasionally want to shred a document at home? Or are you a heavy-user and want to shred a pile of confidential documents every day at the office? How many people are going to use the paper shredder? Or do you want a personal shredder that you can place under your desk? These are some question you should ask to consider what type of shredder you need.
To find the right shredder these devices are often categorized in the following categories:
- Personal shredders for home – 1-2 users
- Home office or small office shredders – 1-5 users (shared use)
- Commercial heavy-duty shredders – 5+ users (departmental use)
- Industrial paper shredder machines – High volume continuous shredding
The categories contain paper shredders that are filtered for the requirements below. You can read more about these specifications further on this guide.
- Sheet capacity
- Run time and cool down time
- Bin capacity
Personal / Home use
Home office / Small office
Commercial / Large office
30 minutes or more
20 sheets or more
30 gallons or more
The sheet capacity tells you how many sheets of paper you can feed in the shredder. A basic shredder can shred 1 to 3 documents at once. But a more heavy-duty shredders can eat up 20 sheets of paper per pass. A higher sheet capacity results in faster shredding and less work.
On average a manual feed paper shredder that is suitable for small (home) offices can shred between 10-20 sheets of A4 paper per pass.
Are you looking for a shredder with a high sheet capacity? Then consider an auto feed shredder that can shred a large pile of documents in one session.
Paper shredding services for high volumes
When you want to shred high volumes of confidential documents, it is time consuming to shred the documents yourself with an office shredder. For shredding high volumes it is recommended to make use of an heavy-duty paper shredder which can shred large quantities at a relatively high pace. When you don’t want to invest in an expensive industrial shredder it is advised to hire an paper shredding company which can do the paper shredding for you. Read more about this on our paper shredding services page.
Run time and cool down time
Generally people don’t realize this, but most paper shredders have a maximum run time and a cool down time. Also known as ‘duty cycle’. In other words, you can use the shredder for a certain amount of time before the motor needs to cool down.
So how long can you shred your documents uninterruptedly. It depends on the type of shredder, the quality of the shredder and the security level. Most household shredders can shred between 5-10 minutes continuously before a cool down period is needed. Professional shredders for offices can run for up to 30 minutes. But there are also commercial shredders available that can run continuously without stopping to cool down, these are the real heavy-duty ones..
The duration of the cool down time depends on the shredder, but it can take 30 minutes on average before the shredder is ready for the next shredding session.
A higher DIN security level tends to have a negative impact on the run time. For instance, a DIN P-5 shredder needs to cool down more often than a DIN P-2 shredder that is in the same class, because a DIN P-5 shredder produces smaller particles. This requires more power from the engine, which causes it to overheat more quickly.
Bin or bucket capacity
Most paper shredders come with a bin or storage drum to collect the paper particles. Some cheap shredders only contain the shredding part which you need to place on top of a paper recycle bin, but we leave these type of shredders out of consideration.
Does the capacity matter much? Yes, because a large capacity means less time is wasted emptying the bin. A large bin capacity is definitely recommended when you want to shred daily or you use the shredder with multiple users, for instance on your office department.
Please note that the DIN security level has a big impact on how quickly the storage bin fills up. A DIN P-2 shredder, that shreds in long strips, will fill up a bin much faster than a DIN P-5 shredder that generates tiny particles which takes up less volume in the bin.
Type of bin or container
A paper shredder can have two types of bins. A bottom bin with lift-off head or a removable bin.
The bottom bin with lift-off head is a basic variant where the shredder is placed on top of the bin. When you want to empty the bin you need to remove the shredder part, the head. Most household shredders or cheaper shredders are manufactured in this way. It is workable, but not the most convenient. Especially when you want to shred a larger pile of documents it gets annoying to remove the top every time. It also can make a mess when you accidentally tip over your shredder when it is full of shredded paper.
The more advanced and larger shredders are equipped with a pull-out bin or removable bucket. The bin collects all the paper particles and once the bin is full you open the door or pull-out the bin to empty it. This is a more professional, clean and convenient way than the variant with the shredder on top of the bin.
Calculate the speed of a shredder
So how fast or productive is a shredder? To calculate the speed of a paper shredder you need to know these specifications (formula by Fellowes):
- Sheet Capacity – amount of paper a shredder can shred at one time
- Feet per Minute (FPM) – how quickly the shredder can shred paper
- Run Time – the time the shredder can continuously run before cooling down
Multiply the numbers from each specification and you get a shredder performance rating.
Sheet Capacity x Speed (FPM) x Run Time = Shredder Score
Fellowes Powershred 73Ci
- Sheet capacity: 12 sheets
- Feet per minute: 10
- Run time: 10 minutes
- Score: 12 x 10 x 10 = 1,200
Fellowes Powershred 99Ci
- Sheet capacity: 18 sheets
- Feet per minute: 30
- Run time: 25 minutes
- Score: 18 x 30 x 25 = 13,500
Conclusion: The Fellowes Powershred 99Ci is much more efficient than the 73Ci. Because the 99Ci is much faster and can run for a longer period of time.
What do you want to shred?
Paper documents, of course. But some shredders can handle more than paper alone. Such as:
- Loyalty cards
- ID cards
- Credit cards
Most basic shredders can handle some staples. But if you want to go heavy-duty on staples and paperclips be sure that the shredder can really take care of it without you damaging the blades. Look for the instruction manual or check the specifications on the website of the manufacturer.
More powerful shredders can also shred plastic cards, such as credit cards. These shredders may have a dedicated slot to shred cards. But others just let you shred the cards in the same slot you feed your confidential papers in. For recycling it is important to find out if the shredder comes with a separate container to catch the plastic parts. Otherwise the plastic particles are getting mixed up with the paper shreds.
Shredders with a CD functionality can also shred CDs and DVDs into tiny particles. The shredder can have a dedicated CD slot to shred the optical media. Or the paper shredder lets you shred it in the main paper shredding feed. Same as with the cards, it is important for recycling that the particles are collected separately so it won’t pollute your shredded paper.
Paper shredder for cardboard
Do you want to shred cardboard waste? Be careful, because not every paper shredder can handle this tough material. Only heavy-duty or industrial paper shredders are powerful enough to shred through sheets of corrugated cardboard. But keep in mind that a paper shredder is made for shredding paper and not for shredding high volumes of cardboard.
When you have high quantities of cardboard waste, such as boxes and other packaging material, then it is recommended to invest in a dedicated cardboard shredder. These type of shredders are manufactured for shredding or perforating corrugated cardboard and paperboard. A cardboard shredding machine isn’t necessarily meant for security reasons, like a paper shredder. These cardboard shredders are used for recycling your own cardboard waste. The shredded cardboard can be used as packaging material or you can bale the material which you can sell to a recycling facility.
Manual feed or auto feed shredder
Paper shredders are divided in two variants, manual feed and auto feed paper shredders.
Manual feed paper shredder
Just like the name implies, a manual feed shredder needs to be fed manually by hand. Depending on the sheet capacity you grab a few sheets of paper and shred it. You grab another pile of paper and shred it, and so on. For shredding a small pile of documents this is fine, but if you need to shred thousands of documents, this might not be very convenient and efficient.
Auto feed shredder
To save time and speed up the process of shredding paper an automatic paper shredder is recommended. This shredder has an auto feed functionality which means it shreds a large pile of paper all by its own. So, how does it work? An auto feed paper shredder has an input tray that is quite similar as that of an office printer or copier. You fill up the tray with your documents and press start, the shredder takes care of the rest. The amount of paper you can shred per session depends on the shredder. Some auto feed shredders can hold 100 sheets of A4 documents, but others can hold 500+ sheets.
Important safety features
A paper shredder isn’t a toy because it contains a set of sharp cutting blades. We advise to always be very careful when operating a paper shredder and don’t leave a working shredder unattended. Especially when there are kids or pets around. Always unplug the shredder when not using it and place it out of sight in a secure and safe place. For your safety and that from others you might consider a paper shredder that comes with special safety features that prevents possible injuries. These safety features are recommended for personal home users and professional office users.
- Safety lock – Lock the shredder even when it is plugged in.
- Safety sensor – Electronic touch sensors around the paper entry that detects when hands or fingers touch the opening. The shredder immediately shuts off.
Paper jam prevention
An annoying occurrence of paper shredders is the ‘paper jam’. The paper shredder stops working because the motor can’t process the amount of paper.
A paper jam can occur because of:
- Exceeding the prescribed maximum sheet capacity.
- Inserting the wrong material, such as cardboard or thick paper.
- Slanted input of a stack of paper which results in a paper folding jam.
- Bad maintenance of the shredder and lack of oil
How do you solve a paper jam? Stop the shredder and press the reverse button, the cutting blades will turn in the opposite direction so the paper gets rolled out of the shredder. Straighten the documents a bit and retry to shred it.
If you want to minimize the chance of a paper jam you can look for a paper shredder with special ‘anti paper jam’ technology. These shredders are equipped with an extra powerful engine which pulls the paper through during a paper jam. The jam-proof shredders also prevent a paper jam with a sensor which detects when you want to shred too many sheets of paper at once.
A new shredder fresh out of the box works very smoothly. To keep it this way you need to perform some maintenance every once in a while. You can achieve this by oiling the cutting blades.
For oiling a shredder you need official shredder oil that is manufactured by the brand of your shredder. The oil ensures the cutting blades run smoothly and you keep the blades sharp for a longer period of time. Oil comes in small bottles or pre-oiled sheets.
Keep your shredder in top condition
When do you need to oil your shredder? We recommend to oil the blades every time when the bin of the shredder is full. Or after an intensive shredding session. Please refer to the manual for instructions on how to oil your shredder.
Some shredders come with an ‘auto-oil functionality’. These shredders take care of the oiling process all by itself. The only thing you need to do is making sure there is enough oil.
On average, paper shredders produce around 65 decibels while shredding. This is comparable with the sound of washing machine. Especially in office environments a noisy and loud paper shredder (around 75 dB) can be a nuisance for your colleagues. So it is advised to look for a paper shredder that shred silently and quiet. Some shredders are specially manufactured to produce as little noise as possible. For instance Fellowes calls this ‘Silent Shred Performance’. To reduce the nuisance as much as possible you can consider placing the shredder in a closed of area, such as a storage space or the archive area in your office.
We’ve experienced in our tests that the more cheap and basic shredders produce more noise with a high pitched frequency. The more professional office shredders can be a bit loud too, but they lack the high pitched noise that we find quite annoying and unpleasant to listen to while shredding documents.
Paper shredder noise levels:
- Silent: less than 60 dB
- Normal: 60 to 70 dB
- Loud: 70 dB or more
Of course, if you want to pick up a personal paper shredder for home use, it is up to you how much noise you can withstand.
We always advise to turn off your paper shredder when you’re not using it. This is better for your safety and that from others but it also helps to reduce energy costs. But if you are shredding multiple times a day it can be quite annoying to turn on nad off the shredder every time.
So, to solve the ‘problem’ you can look for a paper shredder with energy saving technology. This technology sets your paper shredder in an energy saving mode when it is not in use, also known as a stand-by or sleep mode. In this mode the energy consumption of the shredder is as low as possible. Again, if you’re done shredding for the day it is better to turn the machine off completely.
What are popular shredder brands & manufacturers?
What brand shredder should you choose? There is not one brand that is the best. Some brands are specialist in basic consumer shredders, others make really good office shredders and there are brands that are really good in the manufacturing of large industrial shredders. Below we’ve summed up some popular and well-known shredder brands with links to their official websites.
By Recycling.com/ 17 November 2018