Buying a Personal Paper Shredder for Home or Home Office Use

Find the features and performance you need

Homes generate plenty of waste paper, including kids' homework, junk mail, and old bills. Add a home office to the mix, and the paper pile grows even deeper. For security reasons, most people prefer to shred this paper rather than just discard or recycle it.

Personal and small office paper shredders will do the job, but make sure you're getting one that will fulfill your needs before you buy. Here's a look at the most important features and factors to consider when choosing a paper shredder for home or home office use.

After you've narrowed down your paper-shredding needs, evaluate the best paper shredders to buy.

Strip-Cut Shredders

Office with strip-cut shredded documents
VallarieE / Getty Images

Strip-cut shredders, also known as straight-cut or spaghetti-cut shredders, slice the paper into long, thin strips. Strip-cut shredders are inexpensive, fast, and generally handle a higher volume of paper, with lower maintenance requirements than other types of shredders.

The downside to strip-cut shredders is that they're less secure than other types of shredders. Strips can still contain readable text. Also, because the strips don't compress well, you'll need a large basket or more frequent emptying of your wastebin.

Shred size may vary from 1/8 to 1/2 inch, with narrower strips providing better security.

Cross-Cut Shredders

Cross-cut shredded paper documents and waste paper basket
Gary S Chapman / Getty Images

Cross-cut shredders, unlike strip-cut shredders, provide additional security by cutting paper vertically and horizontally, resulting in confetti-like pieces. They're considered more secure because reconstructing a cross-cut document would be extremely difficult. The shredded paper compresses better than strips, so the basket holds more cut paper. There are a wide variety of cross-cut shredders to choose from.

However, these shredders are slower, generally require more maintenance, and usually cost more. If your documents are highly sensitive, even a cross-cut shredder isn't secure enough.

Micro-Cut Shredders

Fellowes Powershred 99Ms micro-cut shredder

Amazon

Micro-cut shredders offer the greatest level of security and are recommended if you'll be shredding highly confidential materials. Micro-cut shredders are basically more advanced cross-cut shredders, but the paper particles that remain are so small no one would be able to read anything or reconstruct the document.

Micro-cut shredders are generally more expensive than cross-cut or strip-cut shredders, and the shredding process will be slower.

To keep a shredder operating at peak efficiency, the blades should be oiled regularly with specially formulated shredder oil. This oil lubricates without leaving residue on the cutters that can attract paper dust and lead to clogged cutters.

Volume and Capacity

Woman shredding paper in an office
Getty Images/Image Source

It's easy to burn out a shredder by overworking it. For low-volume users, personal shredders designed for 50 or so sheets per day are fine. Low-volume or light-duty shredders may handle from two to 10 sheets of paper per pass.

For higher volume, look beyond personal shredders to those that can handle 100 to 150 sheets per day for days on end. A shred capacity of at least 10 to 15 sheets is best unless you really want to spend time feeding in paper one piece at a time. In real-world use, most shredders do best at one to two sheets less than their stated specs.

The opening where you feed the paper into the shredder needs to be large enough to accommodate the size of the paper you typically shred. An 8.75 or 9-inch throat handles unfolded letter-size paper nicely. A smaller throat size requires folding the paper, but if most of your shredding is of credit card or ATM receipts, it works fine.

Stand-Alone Units

The Aurora Strip-Cut Paper/Credit Card Shredder that fits over a wastebasket

 Amazon

Sometimes called "trash can shredders," stand-alone paper shredders typically fit on most standard-size wastebaskets. Expandable sides allow you to adjust it for different-width baskets.

Stand-alone shredders are often the least expensive units. For the greatest flexibility, look for a unit that fits both round and rectangular baskets of varying sizes.

Integrated Units

AmazonBasics 8-sheet high-security microcut shredder with pullout basket

 Amazon

Otherwise known as shredders with baskets, these shredders have built-in baskets or racks for plastic bags. They usually cost more than the stand-alone versions and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some units might include an extra opening for inserting paper that doesn't need shredding or a see-through window to check the paper level.

The main drawback of these types of units is that you are tied to using a specific size basket. 

Extra Features

Closeup of a paper shredder

Wikimedia Commons

Shredders come with various combinations of features. With automatic start/stop, the shredder detects the presence of paper. Some shredders provide a light or buzzer to alert you to paper jams or a full shredder basket. A reverse feed is useful for clearing out paper jams. A clear basket or window shows when the basket needs emptying. Some shredders are tough enough to handle staples and shred non-paper items such as credit cards.

Consider your needs carefully and match them to a shredder with those features.