Everyone needs a paper shredder in the office. With identity theft being a persistent problem these days, it behooves you to have a way to destroy documents you no longer need, which might have your personal information, Social Security number, or financial information or account numbers on them.
There are different types of paper shredders. There are strip-cut, cross-cut, and confetti cut/micro-cut shredders. All of these shred paper, but differently. A strip-cut shredder uses rotating knives to shred a piece of paper into ¼-inch or more petite strips that will be as long as the sheet of paper you feed into the shredder. Strip-cut shredders are considered the least-secure type of shredder. There is less randomness in the shreds, which theoretically might be reassembled and examined by a determined identity thief. Generally, cheaper, light-duty shredders will be strip-cut machines.
Crosscut and micro-cut shredders use two contra-rotating drums to cut rectangular, parallelogram, or diamond-shaped shreds. These shredders make more randomness in the shreds, making it more difficult to reassemble the shredded documents. Therefore, micro-cut or cross-cut shredders are considered a more secure means of shredding documents than strip-cut shredders.
There are seven security levels for paper shredders. Levels 1 and 2 are for general or mildly sensitive internal documents, and these security levels are limited to strip-cut shredders and cross-cut machines that make larger cross-cut shreds. Security Level 1-3 shredders can provide most home and office shredding needs. Security Level 3 shredders are for confidential documents, and this security level cross-cut shredders cutting shreds 1/8″ to 5/32″ wide and 1 13/16″ to 2″ long provide. Level 4 shredders are for secret documents, and micro-cut shredders usually give this level of security. Security Levels 5, 6, and 7 are for Top Secret documents.
All paper shredders are not equal. Too often, people invest in a cheaper, lighter shredder. They either stuff too much paper into it at once, causing it to jam, or they operate the shredder so hard that it overheats and burns out. When considering your shredder needs, you need to invest in a shredder that can handle the heaviest shredding task that you may face. Today’s shredders come with an array of features, including the ability to handle small paperclips and staples, old CDs/DVDs, as well as the ability to shred expired credit/debit cards. Some have features that prevent jamming and provide overheat protection. It will be essential to check the manufacturer’s specifications for the shredder you consider to see if it can handle these extra things besides shredding paper.
Productivity is an important issue when considering a shredder. How much will you need to shred at one time? It goes beyond mere sheet capacity or shredder speed. We are talking about throughput or the efficiency at which a shredder can get the job done. Throughput combines the three most critical features contributing to a shredder’s performance: Sheet Capacity X Speed (feet per minute) X Duty Cycle = Throughput. A shredder with greater sheet capacity may not have the throughput of a smaller capacity machine if the latter has a longer duty cycle (how long the shredder can run it before needing a cooldown period).
Though it may look impressive that a shredder can shred 15 pieces of paper in a single pass, you also need to make other considerations. The 15 sheets refer to 20 lb. paper only. The owner’s manual may tell you that a particular shredder cannot shred thicker paper, such as cardboard or file folders, newsprint, or plastic other than credit cards or CDs/DVDs. The manual may say that laminates, transparencies, paper with adhesives on it, or continuous forms are not suitable for your shredder. The manual may also say that a shredder can handle small paper clips, but shredding may shorten the cutters’ lives. So, depending on how you will use a shredder, you’ll want to consider more than just how many sheets of paper it can handle at one time.
Once you have found and purchased a suitable shredder for you, it is best to keep it in a convenient place in your home or office. This way, you can destroy important documents and protect your identity and personal information from falling into the hands of identity thieves.
Paper Shredder FAQ
I understand there are 7 different security levels for paper shredders. Which of these are essential to me?
Consumers who want protection against identity theft should consider paper shredders that provide Level P-3 (medium security) to Level P-5 (medium to high security) protection. Level P-1 or P-2 shredders you should not use to shred documents containing confidential information. Levels P-6 or P-7 are only suitable for highly confidential documents with the fine print to classified/top-secret documents.
I’ve seen $30 and $200 shredder models. How can I be assured of getting the most value for the money I spend?
Well, for starters, you want to consider at least a cross-cut shredder if protection of your identity is the reason you are considering a shredder purchase. That will eliminate the cheapest models, which are more likely to be strip-cut shredders (providing only Level 1 or 2 security). Then, consider how heavy you might use your shredder. If you have already burned out one or two cheaper models, you might want to consider buying a better shredder. You should get one that can handle the heaviest use you will ever throw at it. If you buy enough quality with your next shredder, you should never have to worry about overusing it and burning it out. Cheap shredders are cheap for a reason, and you need to buy a shredder that shreds to your required security level without frequently requiring maintenance or jamming/breaking down.
I don’t understand the differences between cross-cut, micro-cut, and confetti cut shredders. Can you help me?
Micro-cut and confetti cut shredders are different names for the same type of shredder. The differences between cross-cut and micro/confetti cut shredders are in the size of the paper shreds created by these machines. The shreds from cross-cut shredders average 4mm X 30mm (0.15″ X 1.18″), where a standard 8.5″ X 11″ sheet of paper cuts into about 399 particles. Micro-cut shredders cut 2mm X 15mm (0.08″ X 0.59″) shreds, cutting a standard paper sheet into about 3,000 particles. Cross-cut shredders are considered medium security (Level P-3 security) shredders, and micro-cut shredders are considered medium to high security (Level P-4/P-5 security) shredders. Both types are considered adequate for protection against identity theft.
Note: Most shredders that shred credit cards and CDs/DVDs only strip-cut these into narrow pieces. Some users are concerned that a determined identity thief could reassemble the credit card strips. Bear this in mind for the shredder you are considering using.
Can you explain the differences between some of the brands?
Fellowes is nearly a household name when it comes to paper shredders. Fellowes started distributing European shredders in the U.S. in 1982 and then introduced their in-house designs in 1990. The company offers various price ranges and features, with its premium shredders possessing fairly advanced qualities. Comet, Aurora, Swingline, and SimplyShred are two other popular brands.
I understand that you should only shred documents printed on 20 lb. paper. Is this true?
You should always consult your shredder manual to see what shredder will shred. Being able to shred 12 sheets of paper per pass does not mean just any kind of paper.
Most shredder manuals state that you cannot shred newsprint, continuous forms, or cardboard. They also note that you cannot destroy paper with adhesives, including labels and envelopes. Also, you should not destroy business envelopes with plastic windows in some. Most manuals say not to shred plastic other than credit cards and CD/DVDs and to use only designated card and media slots.
The reason for not shedding envelopes/business envelopes is the adhesive on the flaps, and the plastic windows of business envelopes can gum up the cutters. It means when you get those credit card offerings in the mail, do not automatically shred the unopened piece of mail. Instead, open the offering and shred the piece of paper containing your name and personal information on it. Throw away or recycle the rest as junk mail. Look at it this way: why fill your shredder basket up with a paper that does not need to be shredded? Most of those mail offerings contain lots of loose paper that won’t give away your identity.
What about shredders that claim to shred through paperclips and staples?
Many shredders can shred staples and small (but not large) paper clips. For the occasional paperclip or staple that slips through, if your shredder is suitable for these, it should be okay. Realize, however, that the cutters on your shredder will stay sharper longer if you stick to just shredding paper according to your shredder’s manual.
How often should my shredder be oiled?
Paper shredders require regular lubrication, and you should base the frequency of oiling on the amount of usage. Shredders you use more will need more lubrication. A shredder under hefty usage will need oil about once every four hours, and typical usage may only require oiling about once a month. Most manufacturers recommend oiling the cutters for every 30 minutes of accumulative shredding. However, the easiest way to stick to a lubricating schedule is to oil your shredder every time you empty the waste bin.
You can lubricate your shredder by shredding specially impregnated shredder lubrication sheets purchased at your office supply store or squirting some shredder oil across the width of a piece of paper and running this sheet through the cutters. Feed the lubrication sheet through the shredder and then operate the machine in reverse mode for a few seconds to disperse the oil throughout the cutting cylinders. Finally, shred a few sheets of paper to remove any excess oil. You may have to repeat this procedure a couple of times to ensure thorough lubrication.
I have a massive box of papers saved up, so I will immediately put my shredder to the test. Would that be a good assessment of its capabilities?
Perhaps it is highly recommended that you read your shredder manual before you even switch on your shredder. The manual should list your new shredder’s duty cycle its recommended frequency of use. It will tell you that your shredder can be run continuously for only 5 or 10 minutes before needing a 20 to 40-minute cooldown. It will also tell you the recommended daily use, i.e., the number of paper passes and the number of credit cards or CDs/DVDs that shredder can shred in one day of service. If you have a backlog of shredding to do, you should bear this in mind when you first use your new shredder.
The main reason for using a recommended duty cycle is to keep your shredder from overheating. Some shredders have an overheat sensor and will shut down automatically if this sensor is tripped.
Are there any regulations governing paper shredding?
Indirectly so. Two federal regulations cover protecting consumers from identity theft. The 2003 Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) and 2009 refine the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). FACTA requires that all businesses, regardless of size or industry, protect and dispose of sensitive and personal data they collect about their customers. The law doesn’t specify shredding documents as a requirement, but most businesses recognize shredding as the most cost-effective and practical option to comply with the law.
The 2009 changes to HIPPA involved the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. The HITECH rule stiffens civil and criminal penalties associated with failure to protect personal medical information required by HIPPA. Again, the law doesn’t specify shredding papers as a requirement. Still, most doctor’s offices and medical billing agencies understand that shredding personal medical information is the most cost-effective and practical option to comply with the law.
Businesses and medical offices that do their document destruction must ensure that the shredders they purchase will keep them FACTA and HIPPA compliant.
DIN Standard 66399 is the European standard for paper shredder security. As of September 1, 2012, this new standard supersedes the previous standard related to media destruction (DIN 327251-1). The previous standard denoted six security levels ranging from DIN 1 to DIN 6 to increase security.
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Office equipment seller since 2011. Started writing in 2018 and sharing his experience and knowledge with love and respect.