Personal information has become incredibly valuable over the past several years - especially to criminals who want to put that information to use for their own gain. It's no wonder that paper shredders are a must-have for home offices. Picking the right one is important, to you strike the right balance between performance and price. Our top recommendation is by Fellowes, a trusted brand, and it shreds quickly without jamming up.
Considerations when choosing paper shredders
An underpowered shredder can be a point of frustration: Feeding one page at a time into a slow shredding mechanism can test anyone's patience; yet feeding too many sheets of paper at once into the shredder can cause a jam that's tough to clear. So it's important to choose a shredder that can shred more than 1 or 2 sheets at a time; that can chew up several pages within 10 to 12 minutes; and that will not overheat within that time period.
A paper shredder's size is an important issue in a home office, where space is at a premium. And the bin, which holds the shredded paper after it's been run through the cutter mechanism, should be large enough that it doesn't have to be emptied halfway through a shredding session.
There are three main types of paper shredders, each making a different type of cut. A strip-cut shredder does just that: cuts paper into several long, thin strips, about 50 total; it's usually the lowest-priced shredder, at about $17 to $29 for personal and home office models. At the midrange, in the $25 to $60 range, is the cross-cut shredder: It not only cuts longwise in strips, it also cuts crosswise, cutting the paper into about 200 confetti-sized squares per sheet. Finally, a microcut shredder is the most secure type, cutting a single sheet of paper into about 2,000 tiny pieces - you'll pay between $49 and $169 for home office models.
Other important details
Look for a shredder that has either an "anti-jam" or manual forward and reverse to clear paper jams.
Shredders intended for home office or office use typically have safety stop features like object sensors and auto-shutoff, but low-end personal shredders may not.
If you tend to pile up documents and shred them all at once, look for a shredder with a longer run time and a more powerful motor that can run for 10 minutes or more without overheating.
Q. Are larger shredders available for offices that need a lot of documents destroyed quickly?
A. Of course! Be prepared to pay much, much more for a fast shredder that can be used all day. High-end microcut shredders can mulch a sheet into 6,200 to 13,000 tiny pieces and are used by government agencies and corporations that need to destroy hundreds of old documents at a time.
Q. If I have a lower-end paper shredder, how can I make sure that shredded documents aren't recoverable?
A. The more times a sheet of paper is cut, the less likely it is to be pieced back together. That's why microcut shredders are recommended. But if you have a cross-cut or a strip-cut shredder you can still reduce the possibility of documents being pieced back together. You can empty the shredder's bin more frequently or separate the shredded documents into different bags before disposing of them.
Q. What is the best size of paper shredder for a home office?
A. That depends on how often you use a shredder and how many pages are fed in during a shred session. Look for a shredder that can be fed more than one page at a time and that shreds at least 10 pages within 2 to 4 minutes. A crosscut or microcut shredder can further prevent sensitive information from being pieced back together.
Q. Someone told me I have to lubricate the shredder blades every two weeks. How do I do this?
A. Not all shredders need to have their blades lubricated regularly: Check the product manual or contact the manufacturer directly about this, as lubricating some shredders will void the warranty. If lubrication is recommended, you can purchase shredder lubrication sheets from office supply stores. Run one sheet through the feed about once a month, or every two weeks if the shredder sees daily use, unless the manufacturer recommends a different schedule.
Paper shredders we recommend
Best of the best: Fellowes Powershred 79Ci
Our take: Jam-resistant, quiet, safe and energy-efficient - and it shreds, too, at a fast 4.3 pages per minute.
What we like: We love this shredder's ability to chew up almost 16 sheets of paper at a time, with little to no loss in speed. It handles irregular-sized envelopes and glue-coated sticky notes without a hiccup. And its bin doesn't need frequent emptying.
What we dislike: As a crosscut shredder it doesn't shred as thoroughly, so isn't recommended for highly sensitive documents.
Best bang for your buck: AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Micro-Cut Shredder
Our take: Getting higher-security micro-cut technology at a sub-$100 price point is huge, especially with this shredder's power.
What we like: Quiet and powerful for its size, the shredder's high-security micro-cut function impressed us with its ability to run continuously during a 6-minute shred session without overheating. It handles credit cards and old CDs easily. A bigger shred bin means less time emptying the unit, and its rolling casters make it easy to move around the office.
What we dislike: The auto-start sensor can be glitchy. Its gears tend to clog with paper easily, especially when feeding several sheets simultaneously.
Choice 3: Royal 18-Sheet Cross-Cut Paper Shredder
Our take: One of the best shredders on the market for small to medium-sized offices, thanks to its huge simultaneous sheet feed, extra-large bin and quiet operation.
What we like: Those who don't have time to stand over a shredder feeding a few sheets at a time will love its 18-sheet feeder capacity, as well as its speed, which clears the feeder in 5 to 8 seconds. The unit is maintenance-free, needing no lubrication at all, and its five-year cutter blade and motor warranty is impressive.
What we dislike: The restrictive feed slot, which is only just wide enough to fit an 8.5-inch wide sheet, can be frustrating, and too many staples in a multiple-page feed tends to increase jamming.
Samantha Bookman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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