Author: Darla DeMorrowDocument Management General Home Home Office Paper Recyling

How to Use a Home Paper Shredder

How to Use a Home Paper Shredder-2

Are you one of the (scientifically identified) 6 million people who avoids shredding your sensitive documents because of your home shredder. 5.9 million of that number have actually burned up at least one home shredder at some point. 5.8 million have burned up more than one. (I might have made those numbers up.) It might be twice that high. Most families should own a cross-cut personal shredder. They are actually very easy to keep in good shape.
Here’s help on how to use your home paper shredder.

  • Buy the best home shredder you can afford, without breaking the bank. You can find many options under $50. If you work at home or like to shred a lot, you might need a higher capacity machine costing between $50 and $200.
  • Know your sheet capacity. If the shredder says, “Max. 8 Sheets,” like mine does, it really means 4-6 sheets of regular copy paper at a time. It does not allow for heavier paper, plastic, brochures, or folded items.
  • Don’t try to shred everything. Don’t just shred everything because it has your name or address on it. Information anyone can get from a quick Google search or from the phone book doesn’t need to be shredded. However, anything with financial account numbers on them (like your bank statements and brokerage accounts) should be shredded. Your grocery store junk mail, just because you may have a frequent shopper club number there, is not sensitive information. Really, it’s not. Nor are most of your utility bills, believe it or not. Don’t make your little household shredder work harder than it needs to. Use it only for what needs to be shredded.
  • If the shredder is usually unplugged for safety or other reasons, then you’ll probably be batch shredding. Your machine will only shred for 15-20 minutes before it overheats. Just give it a rest, and finish your batch another day, or after the machine has had a chance to cool down. Better yet, stop when you hear the motor or the blades laboring. That “rrr…rrr…rrr” sound means you are either feeding it too much paper, or the machine needs a break.
  • Occasionally, give your shredder a little treat and lubricate the cutting blades. You can purchase special feeder sheets or shredder oil for this purpose. I’ve used my sewing machine oil with good results. You only need to do this a few times a year.
  • Don’t keep shredding if the bin is full. The already shredded paper will jam up against the rotating blades, over-heating the shredder faster than needed. Empty the bin often.
  • Unless your shredder specifically allows for it, don’t feed plastics through the machine. They tend to gunk up the blades. I’ve had to surgically remove hunks of melted plastic from household shredders. If your shredder is equipped to shred credit cards and/or computer disks, empty the basket of paper before shredding these items. The paper is recyclable with household recycles in most places. The disks probably aren’t. Throw plastic bits out in the trash separately from the paper.

If you follow these guidelines, your home shredder should do the job for many years. However, if you regularly have more than 2 shopping bags full of material to shred, you can search for free or low-cost community shredding events in your area. Just Google “shred events” and your city, zip code, or region. You can find a current list of shredding events in the greater Philadelphia region

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6 Responses

  1. Lilly Jones says:

    Great article. Who knew that paper shredding could be so complicated. In all honesty your article explains why I have gone through 3 in the past 6 months…

    Lilly Jones |

  2. Great tips, most people don’t realize they need to oil their shredders regularly and end up burning them out prematurely.

  3. There are some really good tips here, especially the reminder to empty the shredder’s bin rather than hoping that the documents you’re feeding through will compress the contents of the already full bin.

    You’re spot on about there being some really good models on the market for less than $50 as well – I did a round up of the best cheap shredders over on my blog.

  4. I like that you put the price of the machine on here. I think that if I was going to buy a shredder then I would want to know the general area that I would have to pay for it. I think that if you have a shredder then you might want to keep it in good shape so it doesn’t fail on you when you need it.

  5. Tim says:

    Good tip on not feeding plastics through the shredder. It’s crazy that it’s called a “paper” shredder and yet people all the time feed all types of non-paper things through it – CDs, ties, plastic labels. Thanks for the share.

  6. Pim says:

    Each shredder has its own ‘run-time’. This indicates how many minutes you can use your shredding continuously before it needs to cool down. Home shredders tend to overheat quite quickly at around 3-5 minutes. The more expensive office shredders can run for 15-30 minutes. The heavy-duty and industrial shredders can even shred for multiple hours or even continuously.

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