Buying a Home Paper Shredder
A good home paper shredder is an integral part of the overall home security plan. Identity thieves still troll through garbage to find credit card applications, bank statements, and other papers with personal information on them. Just tearing up a credit card app is not enough - it is too easy to reconstruct the application and most credit card companies will take taped up and altered applications! Shredding private papers with a good shredder will deter nearly all crooks. Who wants to put together and sort several hundred tiny pieces of paper when there are easier targets available?
This is not the time to go cheap.
Paper Shredder Suggestions for Home and Home Offices
There are many home paper shredders on the market- inexpensive ones will not hold up to long-term use because of undersize motors or marginal design. The Fellowes 450Ms is one mysecurepc found that meets our selection criteria.
- Ultimate protection with particles 10 times smaller than standard cross-cut
- Auto Reverse stops and reverses paper if a jam occurs
- SafeSense Technology stops shredding when hands touch the paper opening
- SilentShred offers ultra-quiet performance for shared workspaces
- Holds over 80% more paper per gallon than standard cross-cut
- Shreds 7 sheets per pass into 5/64"x 5/16" micro-cut particles (Security Level P-5)
- Shreds staples, credit cards, CDs/DVDs
- 5.5 gallon wastebasket
- Maximum run time: 8-10 minutes on / 15 minutes off
- 3 year limited warranty
- Very high consumer rating
For a less expensive option, we recommend the
- Particles 6 times smaller than standard cross-cut
- High-security, micro-cut shredder with 12-sheet capacity; destroys credit cards, CDs, and DVDs
- Shreds paper into tiny pieces (5/32 by 15/32 inches) (security level P-4)
- Auto start and manual reverse to clear paper jams; 9.1-inch-wide paper feed
- 6.7-gallon pullout bin (holds about 600 sheets)
- thermal protection with auto shut-off
- 1 year limited warranty
- Very high consumer rating
Do not forget the lubricating oil for the cutter heads.
- Extend the life of your paper shredder
- Easy to apply
Paper Shredder Basics
There are several features to look for in a home paper shredder. We feel that strip cut shredders (generally the cheap ones) are worthless for any type of security.
Paper can be shredded four ways:
- Strip cut - Paper is cut vertically into thin strips (about 60 per page). This is not very secure and with a little patience can be reconstructed by a dumpster diver.
- Crosscut - The paper is cut vertically and horizontally into confetti-like shreds. A typical 1/4 inch x 2 inch shred creates over 300 pieces which is more of a challenge for a thief to put back together - especially when dozens of shredded papers are intermingled.
- Micro cut - very small crosscut. Usually 5 to 10 times smaller than standard crosscut.
- Diamond cut - Paper is cut into little diamond-shaped pieces.
- Snow cut - The most secure but expensive. The paper is cut so tiny that it resembles snow. Virtually impossible to put back together. Used in high security situations.
Shred size security
There are six security levels that are labeled by DIN32757 certification. Level 6 is technically not DIN 32757 certified, but is accepted by the NSA / DOD for top secret shredding. The pictures below show the cutting pattern ranges and their associated security level:
Security Level 1:
Strip Cut: 10.5-11.8mm
Crosscut: 10.5mm x 40-80mm
Security Level 2:
Strip Cut: 3.9-5.8mm
Crosscut: 7.5mm x 40-80mm
Security Level 3:
Strip Cut: 1.9mm
Crosscut: 3.9mm x 30-50mm
Security Level 4:
Crosscut: 1.9mm x 15mm
Security Level 5:
Crosscut: 0.78mm x 11mm
Security Level 6:
Crosscut: 1mm x 4-5mm
- Level P-1 = ≤12 mm wide strips of any length
- Level P-2 = ≤6 mm wide strips of any length
- Level P-3 = ≤2 mm wide strips of any length or ≤320 mm˛ particles (of any width)
- Level P-4 = ≤160 mm˛ particles with width ≤ 6 mm
- Level P-5 = ≤30 mm˛ particles with width ≤ 2 mm
- Level P-6 = ≤10 mm˛ particles with width ≤ 1 mm
- Level P-7 = ≤5 mm˛ particles with width ≤ 1 mm
To be considered "high security" (as defined by the National Security Agency and Dept of Defense) the shreds must be at most 1/25 inch by 1/5 inch (11,688 shreds). Expect to pay at least two thousand dollars for a high security shredder though just because it is expensive does *not* mean it is meets NSA specs.
Size of opening in which paper is fed. The standard US paper size is 8 1/2 by 11 inches. Legal size is 8 1/2 by 14 inches. The throat size should be at least 9 inches to accommodate these easily. Anything smaller is susceptible to jamming.
TIP: feed the paper at a slight angle so the paper's sentences are shredded. If not, parts of the sentence can easily be seen on the shreds (like social security numbers, which has happened to me).
The shredder only activates when paper is put in the paper feed. Some new shredders have a safety feature that will instantly turn off if the area near the throat is touched.
A switch that, when in the off position, prevents the paper shredder from being turned on by sticking papers (or fingers) in it.
Shred More than Paper
Many shredders can chop up more than paper such as paper clips, staples, smart cards, access cards, debit cards, credit cards, ID cards, drivers licenses, CDs, and DVDs. More expensive shredders have a separate cutter for these items. This is always a good feature but for added protection on sensitive data divide the scrap in separate garbage cans that are emptied at different dates.
Maximum number of sheets of paper that can be shredded at once. Some (cheaper) shredders have a small throat which requires the paper to be folded in half.
Usually measured in feet/minute. Not much of a factor in home use.
Used to reverse the cutter head direction. Handy in case the machine becomes jammed. Often reversing it will clear the jam.
Most come with either a mesh basket or solid plastic basket. The cutter assembly should cover the entire basket - or small pieces of paper may fall into it without being shredded.
The advantage of a mesh basket is you can see how full the basket is. However, a mesh basket may leak small paper pieces depending on how close the mesh is.
Although some paper shredders claim they can shred envelopes, the glue will eventually gum up the cutter head.
This feature prevents the cutters from running when overheated and ruining them. Often when the shredder is run for a long time, the motor will heat up and shut off when it gets too hot. Wait 10 or 15 minutes for it to cool down before using it again.
Special-made bags that go into the paper bin so shreds can be wrapped up and thrown out. Makes cleaning easy.
Types of shredders
Wastebasket type requires removing the shredder mechanism from the wastebasket when it needs to be emptied.
Console type does not require removing the shredder mechanism for emptying.
In order to keep the cutting head working like new, it needs to be lubricated on a regular basis with paper shredder cutter oil. This oil is specially made for the cutter heads; do not use WD-40 or machine oil or any other type of oil. The cutter oil does not attract dust or dirt nor does it build up a residue in the cutter. Also available are lubricant sheets which are coated with shredder oil.
Generally measured in pages per day. Most good home paper shredders can chop at least 150 papers a day
Selection Criteria for Home Paper Shredders
When you buy a paper shredder look for the following features:
- Well-known manufacturer
- At least security level 4. Cross cut capability producing at least 300 shreds per 8 1/2 x 11 inch page
- Cuts up credit cards, staples, CDs, DVDs
- Top assembly covers entire paper bin
- Safety lock
- Reverse function
- Minimum 9 inch throat (paper feed slot)
- Auto start/stop
- Large paper bin (greater than 4 gallons)
- Overheat protection
- Minimum 3 year warranty on cutter
Not ranked in any particular order.
Paper Shredder Maintenance
Here are a few tips to follow when shredding:
- Turn paper at a slight angle when shredding to prevent the shreds from displaying parts of a sentence. This is not an issue with snow cut or diamond cut shredders.
- Remove paper clips and staples to prolong the cutter head life
- Keep the cutting head oiled and cleaned as recommended by the manufacturer
- Do not run envelopes through the shredder (regardless of what the manufacturer claims). The glue will eventually clog the cutters
What to Shred
Here are some of the sensitive material that should be shredded:
- Credit card statements
- Bank statements
- Utility statements
- Tax-related information
- Preapproved credit card applications
- ATM receipts
- Expired visas and passports.
- Canceled or voided checks
We do not think that shredding a credit card and throwing it away is sufficient enough. Either split the shredded card in 3 piles and throw them away on different trash pickup days or burn them.