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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.

For a less expensive option, we recommend the

Do not forget the lubricating oil for the cutter heads.

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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.

Shred Size

   Paper can be shredded four ways:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Micro cut - very small crosscut. Usually 5 to 10 times smaller than standard crosscut.
  4. Diamond cut - Paper is cut into little diamond-shaped pieces.
  5. 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:

Picture of paper shreds for security level 1
Security Level 1:
Strip Cut: 10.5-11.8mm
Crosscut: 10.5mm x 40-80mm
Picture of paper shreds for security level 2
Security Level 2:
Strip Cut: 3.9-5.8mm
Crosscut: 7.5mm x 40-80mm
Picture of paper shreds for security level 3
Security Level 3:
Strip Cut: 1.9mm
Crosscut: 3.9mm x 30-50mm

Picture of paper shreds for security level 4
Security Level 4:
Crosscut: 1.9mm x 15mm
Picture of paper shreds for security level 5
Security Level 5:
Crosscut: 0.78mm x 11mm
Picture of paper shreds for security level 6
Security Level 6:
Crosscut: 1mm x 4-5mm

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.

Throat size

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).

Auto on/off

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.

Safety lock

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.

Sheet Capacity

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.

Reverse Button

Used to reverse the cutter head direction. Handy in case the machine becomes jammed. Often reversing it will clear the jam.

Shredder basket

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.

Shredding envelopes

Although some paper shredders claim they can shred envelopes, the glue will eventually gum up the cutter head.

Overheat Protection

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.

Shredder bags

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

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Selection Criteria for Home Paper Shredders

When you buy a paper shredder look for the following features:

Not ranked in any particular order.

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Paper Shredder Maintenance

Learn how to lubricate and maintain your paper shredder.

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Shredding Tips

Here are a few tips to follow when shredding:

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What to Shred

Here are some of the sensitive material that should be shredded:

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.

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