Choosing the Right Shredder

Selecting a paper shredder might not seem like a life altering decision but there’s actually a lot more to it than you might think. A shredder is an important tool in disposing of confidential documents and the type of shredder you choose will depend on how sensitive those documents are. It’s also important to consider how you’ll be using the shredder. For example, if you’re looking for a home solution you’ll likely shred far less than someone looking for an office shredder. So how do you go about choosing the right shredder for you? Start with these considerations:


How much will you be using the shredder?

When it comes to shredders, there are generally three tiers of usage: light or household, medium or small office, and heavy or commercial. To make your life easier, I recommend selecting a shredder that can handle the intended usage. Selecting a lower tier shredder than what you need is likely to cause you some frustration as it won’t be able to handle the amount of shredding you need to do.


To determine which tier you fall into, consider how many people will be using the shredder and how much time they’ll spend shredding every day. For example, a household, or light usage shredder, is designed to handle up to 10 minutes of shredding by one user per day. A small or home office, or medium usage shredder, can handle 10-30 minutes of run time per day with 1-3 users. Finally, a commercial, or heavy usage shredder, can handle up to 45 minutes of continuous shredding with more than three users.


Once you’ve determined which tier of shredder you need, you should consider the sensitivity level of what you’ll be shredding. Another way to think about this is how small you’ll want the shredded particles to be.


How sensitive is the material I’ll be shredding?

Traditionally, we think of shredders cutting our documents into strips. While strip-cut shredders are still great tools, they are intended for documents that aren’t very sensitive or confidential. If you’re shredding junk mail and other paperwork that doesn’t contain confidential information, by all means, use a strip-cut shredder. That being said, most of us are now shredding items such as credit card statements and other confidential information. In this case, it’s important to look at a shredder that cuts documents into smaller pieces. A great place to start is a cross-cut shredder, which not only cuts documents into large strips but then cross-cuts these strips. Generally, a cross-cut shredder will provide enough security for the average home or office.


If you work with documents that need to be handled more securely, you’ll need to look at micro-cut or high security shredders. As you can imagine, micro-cut shredders cut documents into very fine particles to ensure that they cannot be pieced back together. Micro-cut should be used by offices handling highly confidential documents and those that need to meet federal document destruction guidelines. Finally, high-security shredders are government-approved shredders used to handle top secret and classified documents.


To help guide consumers, shredders typically have a security level rating starting at P-1 and going up to P-7. The higher the number, the higher the security level and as you move up the security levels the particles of paper become smaller. I recommend starting at least at a P-2 shredder, even if you’re simply shredding non-sensitive information such as junk mail.


Other Considerations?

While usage and document sensitivity are the most important things to consider when choosing a shredder, there might be other things to consider depending on how you intend to use your new shredder. For example, some shredders can also handle shredding credit cards, staples, CDs, DVDs, etc. Others have safety features to help protect pets and children from accidents. There are even models with auto-feed features, allowing you to load paper into a compartment, lock it, and walk away, leaving the shredder to feed paper through.


Armed with this information, you should be able to select the perfect shredder for your needs. However, if you find yourself overwhelmed by the options out there, I recommend the following models: Fellowes 63Cb for personal use, Fellowes 200C for small or home office use, and Fellowes 225Mi for commercial use.


By Mike Agerbo

March 01, 2016