Office Equipment: Buying A Paper Shredder

What to look for when buying a paper shredder

Paper shredders are no longer consigned to the office. As privacy issues and the threat of identity theft stay in the news, more people are in the market for paper shredders for their homes. But, how do you choose the best shredder for your need? The following information about the features available in paper shredders will help you select your own.

Strip-cut or cross-cut?

Strip-cut shredders slice paper into long thin vertical strips that look like streamers. Cross-cut shredders cut the paper in two directions so the end product looks like tiny squares or diamonds of confetti.

Cross-cut shredders are considered more secure since the pieces of paper it outputs are smaller than those from a strip-cut shredder. While any document can be recreated by someone really determined, it is much more challenging with cross-cut pieces.

The output from cross-cut shredders is more compact and compresses more easily than that from strip-cut shredders. So, a strip-cut shredder either needs a larger basket, or must be emptied more often than its cross-cut cousin. Since cross-cut shredders have more complex parts, they often require more maintenance and may be more difficult to fix when they malfunction.

Shredding capacity and speed

Shredders have varying capacities, based on the width of paper each shredder can accept and the thickness the shredder can accommodate. The opening of a shredder, also known as its throat, should be large enough to accept the paper size you will most commonly shred. For example, if you plan to shred a lot of letter-sized paper, you should look for a throat of at least nine inches.

It is also important to note how many sheets of paper the shredder can handle at one time. If you shred only occasional documents, it probably does not matter if your shredder can only handle two or three pages in width. However, if you shred many documents, you will save time if you can put more pages through at one time.

Built-in basket or stand-alone?

Some shredders come with an attached receptacle to catch the shreddings. Other units can be used with any standard wastebasket. Units with attached receptacles may be a little more stable, as there is no question of fit between the two pieces, however you are limited by the capacity of the basket that comes with it. Stand-alone units are generally less expensive; if you purchase one, make sure it adjusts to different wastebasket types.

Other features

Some shredders have very useful features. A shredder that allows you to reverse direction is helpful in clearing a paper jam. Other shredders include sensors that automatically start or stop the shredder when paper is placed in it or to alert you to a full basket.


Most shredders will simply need to have the occasional paper jam cleared. It is also wise to periodically apply specially formulated shredder oil to the blades to keep them in peak operating condition. This oil keeps the blades moving smoothly without leaving residue on the paper that passes through them.

© High Speed Ventures 2011