Paper Shredder Buying Guide: How to Choose the Right One for Your Needs

Paper Shredder

Paper shredders are an important staple for homes and businesses alike. They empower users to maintain security and privacy by disposing sensitive materials in a way that prevents identity theft or other misuse of data. And for businesses, shredders provide a strong line of defense against customer data breaches. Here's what you need to know to choose the right shredder for your needs.

Different Types of Paper Shredders

There are many different varieties of paper shredders in a range of sizes, styles, and capabilities. In spite of this diversity, virtually all shredders can be classified in two ways.

The first relates to the shredder's intended use: Is for home, commercial, or industrial use? The main factors distinguishing these varieties their shredding capacity and speed. For example, a paper shredder intended for home use can generally only process a few sheets of paper at a time and is less likely to be able to shred more challenging items such as filled envelopes or stapled documents. It will also probably have a shorter run time and require a longer cool-down period between each shredding session. In contrast, shredders intended for commercial or industrial use have greater volume capacity, increased shredding speed and duration, and the variance in types of items that can be shredded.

The second classification to distinguish different types of paper shredders is the type of cut they produce. Cuts typically fall into one of three categories: strip-cut, cross-cut, and micro-cut.

Quill Paper Shredders

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How to Choose the Right Paper Shredder for Your Needs

When it comes to purchasing a new shredder, knowing how to identify the different paper shredder types is an important starting place. But you also need to consider more than the intended setting or type of cut. Take the following into account in order to choose a paper shredder that suits your needs.

Volume and frequency of use

If you only shred a few pieces of paper once a week or so, then your shredder needs differ greatly from those of an organization that needs to process hundreds of sheets a day or large stacks of paper in one sitting. To identify the option that's right for you, consider:

  • How frequently you plan on using the shredder (e.g. daily or weekly)
  • The types of materials you need to shred (different paper thicknesses, glossy paper, credit cards, CDs, stuffed envelopes, stapled documents, stacks of papers versus single sheets, etc.)
  • How much you typically shred in one sitting. A shredder's "continuous run time" determines how long it can be in use before it needs a cool-down period, which can last for anywhere from 20 to 90 minutes. If you want to process large batches at a time, make sure to purchase a shredder with a long continuous run time.
  • Whether you expect your company to grow (and its shredding needs to grow with it)

If you anticipate using the shredder frequently and/or shredding high volumes whenever you use it, it's a good idea to look for an option that promises speedy processing so no one on the team wastes tons of time at the shredder every day.


Shredder maintenance typically involves cleaning and oiling the shredder every so often and emptying the bag on a regular basis; most shredders require very little of this. But the bin that holds the bag can impact the shredders' maintenance requirements. Different shredders come with different types of bins: a drawer style (which can be pulled out from under the shredder) or a bucket style (in which the shredder rests directly on the bucket). Drawer styles tend to be easier to empty because they can be removed without having to lift the shredder. If you expect to process high volumes, look for a large enough bin that you won't have to empty in the middle of every shredding session.


If you frequently shred highly sensitive documents (such as papers containing employee or customer data), then this should dictate the type of cut. Strip cuts are the least secure, because the long strips can be pieced back together. Cross-cuts offer some additional security by cutting papers both vertically and horizontally, but they could still be pieced together by someone with a lot of time on their hands. Micro-cuts offer the highest level of security, because it would be virtually impossible to piece together such tiny pieces.


Not surprisingly, lower capacity shredders intended for home use or infrequent office use tend to be much less expensive than shredders designed to process higher volumes. Of course, you get what you pay for: These shredders won't match the speed, processing capacity, and special features of higher-end shredders. While it's important to find a shredder that fits your budget, don't skimp on the features your office needs to effectively shred documents without major hassles.

Additional features

Modern paper shredders boast a wide variety of additional features beyond their shredding functions. These include safety sensors, indicator lights for when the bin is full, automatic cleaning cycles, reverse feeds (for clearing jams), power saving modes, noise reduction, and more. Research your options first to make sure your shredder provides the features you want and need.

Once you choose the right shredder for your needs, make sure to read the owner's manual so you properly use and care for the machine. Maintaining your paper shredder helps ensure it serves your office for years to come.

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