August 18, 2021

Article
9 min

Shredder Buying Guide: Everything You Need to Know

This shredder buying guide will teach you everything you need to know to find the right device for your needs.

What's Inside
  • Why Use a Shredder?

    While the primary purpose of a paper shredder is to shred paper, these devices are capable of much more. Shredders can process sensitive materials of all kinds.

  • Types of Shredders

    While there are many different models and variations of paper shredders on the market today, the best way to compare them is to divide them into three categories based on use.

  • Shredder Cutting Patterns

    The most substantial factor of choosing a paper shredder besides the volume and frequency of how you will use the device is the type of cut the machine utilizes.

  • More Shredder Specifications

    Once you know how you plan to use your shredder, you can start thinking about the other features and how they can benefit you.

  • Additional Shredder Features

    While almost every shredder will have capacities and security levels you can compare, there are additional features that can help to differentiate the many different devices available.

  • Summary

    A great way to protect your home or business is by using a paper shredder to destroy any materials with relevant information on them.

Uses for an office shredder extend far beyond the destroying of documents. A suitable shredder can help to protect sensitive information and keep any workplace clean and tidy. Like any other piece of office equipment, some specifications and features make various kinds of shredders stand out. Learning about the different types of shredders will help narrow down choices when it finally comes time to make a purchase. This shredder buying guide will teach you everything you need to know to find the right device for your needs.

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Why Use a Shredder?

While the primary purpose of a paper shredder is to shred paper, these devices are capable of much more. Shredders can process sensitive materials of all kinds. Everything from old credit cards to medical records can be safely and adequately disposed of so you can protect your most sensitive information. Beyond safety, using a shredder also helps organize any office space by consolidating waste and items that need to be disposed of to a single area. Using a shredder regularly will help to create better office cleaning habits and promote productivity. 

Types of Shredders

While there are many different models and variations of paper shredders on the market today, the best way to compare them is to divide them into three categories based on use. The first points you should consider when purchasing a new device is how often you will use it and what type of items it will regularly shred. Of course, there are other features worth considering before making a purchase. However, this first big decision will help you the most in narrowing down your options.

Home Shredder

Individuals or families who wish to add a level of security to their household can significantly benefit from the purchase of home use shredders. These devices are intended to be used for around 10-15 minutes at a time to shred essential documents, such as bills, junk mail or home business documents. These devices can come with various paper-cutting patterns offering different levels of security and price points.

Business Shredder

Small offices can have substantially more items to shred than any home use scenario. That is why business-grade shredders exist. These devices are intended to be used by multiple people a day for extended periods, ranging from around 15-45 minutes. Business paper shredders often also have other bonus features, such as wheels to easily move the device around an office or auto-feed trays to shred a larger volume of materials at once.    

Industrial Shredder

For the most extreme users, there are industrial-grade shredders. These devices can be found in large offices or any place that needs to destroy mass amounts of sensitive data frequently. Industrial shredders can be used almost continuously by multiple groups of people or departments without any adverse effects. The drawback to these powerful devices is that they are costly and tend to be large. The hefty requirements of industrial shredders can make them challenging to move between workspaces.

Shredder Cutting Patterns

The most substantial factor of choosing a paper shredder besides the volume and frequency of how you will use the device is the type of cut the machine utilizes. There are three types of shredder cuts regularly seen today. Each offers a different level of security and time to complete. Depending on what items you plan to shred, you may wish to purchase a device with a specific type of cutting pattern.

Strip-Cut

The most common cutting pattern is known as strip cut. These are the standard longs strips of paper you see in most shredding devices. For example, a shredder with strip cuts would turn a document into about 39 separate pieces using a standard printer-sized piece of paper. This is the least secure, but most affordable cutting pattern. It is more than sufficient for most home shredder uses. 

Cross-Cut

Also known as diamond or confetti-cut, cross-cut shredders help add another layer of security to your documents by slicing them into hundreds of tiny pieces. These shredders work from two corners to split the paper and turn a single printer sheet into over 400 pieces. In addition, cross-cut documents compress better than strip-cut paper, which can help reduce the frequency that waste bins need to be emptied.

Micro-Cut

The most sophisticated and secure type of cut pattern is called micro-cut. Shredders using micro-cut patterns function similarly to cross-cut machines, but work from all corners to separate a single sheet of printer paper into over 3,700 pieces. Other names for micro-cut patterns include particle-cut or security-cut. This pattern may even be required to properly dispose of some items, such as government or military documents.

More Shredder Specifications

Once you know how you plan to use your shredder, you can start thinking about the other features and how they can benefit you. Even small factors, such as bin capacity can significantly impact future requirements. It is always worth it to consider all your options before finalizing a decision. Here is a list of some typical shredder specifications and what they mean.

Sheet Capacity

One of the most important specifications is sheet capacity, but it might not mean what you think. This number directly correlates to the number of documents that can go through the shredder in a single pass. One to three is standard for home use shredders. However, professional solutions can process up more than 20 sheets of material at a time.     

Run Time

Also referred to as a shredder’s duty cycle, run time tells you exactly how long a device can be continuously used before overheating or malfunctioning. Industrial shredders and more advanced machines can also have continuous run times, which means the device rarely needs to stop and can be used for extended work sessions.      

Bin Capacity

Waste capacity, or bin capacity, is one of the more straightforward specifications for paper shredders. This term refers to the amount of shredded materials that can fit into the machine before the device needs to be emptied. The smaller the bin capacity of a shredder, the more frequently someone will have to empty it; this can cost valuable time and money as shredder workloads increase.

Security Level

There are various ways that security levels are measured for document shredders. Some brands may have security ratings, while others may highlight features aimed at improving security. The most important thing you need to consider is how sensitive the information you are shredding is and where you will be disposing of shredded material. The more critical the data you are dealing with, the higher the security level you will need for your shredder. You can also compare the security level of shredding devices by looking at their cutting patterns.

Additional Shredder Features

While almost every shredder will have capacities and security levels you can compare, there are additional features that can help to differentiate the many different devices available. Sometimes, a specific feature, such as added safety sensors, can be highly desirable and significantly impact your final decision. Read below for some examples of additional shredder features and the benefits they can provide.         

Auto vs. Manual Feed

This feature depends on the number of materials you are going to be shredding at any given time. If you only need to shred the occasional document, you can save money and use a manual feed device the few times a week you have shredding needs. However, larger quantities of documents can benefit from auto-feed shredders. With this type of shredder, you can load documents onto a tray, and then the machine operates somewhat like a copier, with no need for the tedious loading of each page.         

Safety Sensors

Shredders are destructive by nature and can cause severe damage if not used properly. Safety sensors and features, such as finger stops, warning sounds and lights can keep users safe when using a shredder.

Jam Protection

Like printers, shredders can jam when too much paper snags and becomes stuck in the motor. Luckily, many modern shredders come with some form of jam protection and correction technology that will deal with jams for you. This can be anything from sensors design to stop operation or reverse motor support that can push out and unjam materials from the device.

Noise Levels

Depending on where you use a shredder, noise levels can be a significant concern or a non-issue. Large offices with dedicated areas that shred massive amounts of materials can be quite loud, but not bothersome. However, the smallest shredder in a small office could cause issues with phone calls or client communication. Some devices offer unique quiet modes or reduced noise levels aimed to tackle these exact scenarios. 

Mobility

Sometimes shredders need to travel around an office or even travel between locations. A simple and efficient way to accomplish this is by using a device with wheels attached. Shredders with casters can easily be rolled to any location. Mobility can also help with noise and security issues by changing the area in which the shredder operates.

Smart Notifications

These days, almost any device comes with some app or software support, and shredders are no different. Smart notifications can help inform you at a moment’s notice of anything going on with your shredder. Software can tell you everything from jam and bin status to shred speeds and estimated time until completion. For users shredding frequently or in large volumes, these features can go a long way in optimizing workflow and efficiency. 

Maintenance

Different shredders require different maintenance levels. Knowing what to expect before you purchase a device will help you optimize downtime later. The more complicated a feature, the more likely it can require a new maintenance step; make sure to consider upkeep when comparing devices. Every shredder will need basic maintenance, such as regular emptying and cleaning of the waste bin and occasionally lubricating the device using oil paper or shredder lubricant.

Summary

Everything from junk mail to old DVDs can contain sensitive information. Disposing of materials properly can make the difference between a standard garbage day or disastrous identity theft. A great way to protect your home or business is by using a paper shredder to destroy any materials with relevant information on them.

Depending on the types of documents you deal with and the frequency you need to shred items, there may be multiple devices out there well suited for you. By learning the differences between shredders and available device features, you can make the most informed decision possible for your next document shredder purchase.