Shredders let you destroy documents securely
shredders can help protect your privacy by shredding documents into bits so
small that the information they contain is illegible. Most shredders today can
shred credit cards as well as paper, and won't skip a beat if you leave behind
some staples or small paper clips. Some can even shred CDs and DVDs, which is
useful for destroying backup discs with private information. But why should you
buy a shredder? What are the chances someone will go through your trash,
to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 17.6 million people -- 7
percent of the U.S. adult population --were victims of some form of identity
theft in 2014, and there's no sign of that letting up as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported a 47 percent jump in identity theft complaints in
2015. Some of the thieves hacked into their victims' accounts online, but
others lifted their personal information off paper documents. To protect
yourself from that latter type of theft, the FTC recommends shredding all documents with account numbers on them -- including "receipts, credit
offers, credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks,
bank statements, expired charge cards, and similar documents" -- as soon
as you no longer need them.
Types of Shredders
Small businesses, and individuals who need to shred lots of sensitive documents, need a shredder that can stand up to a heavy workload. The best paper shredders for office use have longer run times and larger bin capacities than home shredders, and they can chew through bundles of paper, credit cards or data discs at much faster speeds.
Heavy-duty office paper shredders are great for businesses that need to shred documents on a regular basis. Home and home office users, however, may find these types of shredders to be overkill. For them, a smaller paper shredder that takes fewer sheets at a time can do a perfectly adequate job at a much more attractive price.
Shredders and security
shredders offer different degrees of information security:
- Strip-cut shredders, which cut paper
into long, noodle-like strips, can handle higher volumes, but they're also
the least secure type. They're also pretty rare these days; even the
cheapest paper shredder covered in this report is a crosscut model.
- Crosscut shredders (also called
confetti-cut shredders) cut paper lengthwise and crosswise, which makes it
more difficult to piece together documents that are still legible. We
found recommendations for crosscut paper shredders ranging from $25 to $280.
- Micro-cut shredders are the most
secure; they chew paper into tiny, diamond-shaped scraps. They're also the
most expensive; we didn't find recommendations for any cheaper than $400.
shredders often are rated on a six-point security scale, with 6 being the most
secure. For private personal or business documents, experts recommend crosscut
shredders with a security level of 3 or higher. Office Depot posts a handy chart describing paper-shredder security ratings on its website and showing
examples of how finely the different kinds of shredders destroy documents.
Paper shredder styles
Wastebasket paper shredders, which are the size of
a small trashcan, are usually adequate for personal use -- that is,
light-volume needs like shredding tax forms or monthly bills with private
information. The downside to these is that they typically have smaller bin
capacities than other shredder types, and you have to lift the motor and
cutters off the bin to empty it.
Console-style paper shredders, on the other hand,
have bins that you can simply pull out to empty. Console shredders tend to be
more expensive than wastebasket-style shredders, but they're much more
convenient for heavy users.
addition to the style of your shredder, you need to consider its run time and
feed capacity. Run time is the maximum number of minutes a shredder can work
without needing a cool-down period; exceeding this limit can overheat and
possibly damage the shredder. Feed capacity is the number of pages a shredder
can claw through at once, and it's a figure that manufacturers tend to
exaggerate. If your paper shredder says it can accept 8 sheets, 6 is a safer
bet; if it says it can handle 24 sheets, it probably can't exceed 20.
Paper shredder safety
paper shredders are powerful enough to chew through flesh as well as paper,
safety features are key. Slots should be slim to minimize the chance that a
finger will be inserted; separate thicker slots for credit cards and data discs
should have safety covers. If you have children or pets, it's wise to consider
a shredder with lock-out capabilities or one that will shut off automatically
if a finger gets too close to the insertion slot. If you have an older paper
shredder that doesn't include these safety features, the Consumer Product
Safety Commission (CPSC) offers a list of safety guidelines for using
Finding The Best Shredders
"The Best Shredders for Tax Time and Beyond"
"Destroy them all: We brutally review 5 professional document shredders"
"Shred, White and Blue: 5 Document Shredders Tested"
paper shredders covered in our report were selected for performance, security,
and ease of use. We looked at their specs for shredding speed, feed capacity,
run time, and safety features. Professional reviews from computer publications such
as PC World and Wired, as well as consumer magazines like ConsumerReports.org
and Good Housekeeping, helped us evaluate how fast and quiet the machines are
and how easily they jam. Finally, user reviews from retail sites such as
Amazon.com, Staples.com, and OfficeDepot.com showed us how well the shredders
hold up during real-world use.