A paper shredder is the best tool for safely disposing of personal documents you don't want anyone else to see — especially not scammers.
A good paper shredder can be a smart investment. It will help protect you, your business, or possibly your clients from identity theft and fraud by destroying documents with sensitive or confidential information, including pre-approved credit card offers, pay stubs, old tax forms, invoices, and any paperwork with your Social Security number.
Despite the name, paper shredders can destroy more than just paper. In fact, most shredders, including some low-cost basic models, easily shred credit cards, small paper clips, staples, and CDs and DVDs.
Another great thing about paper shredders is that they’re relatively cheap. Prices start at $30 or less, and it's often possible to buy a good quality paper shredder for home use for under $100. Meanwhile, heavy-duty models that are designed to handle more paper sheets and offer continuous run-time and higher security typically cost somewhere between a few hundred dollars to $500.
Paper shredder buying guide
At first glance, the quest to find the best paper shredder may seem as simple as purchasing the one that destroys the most paper in a single pass. But there are other factors that are equally important to keep in mind when making your selection:
• Sheet capacity. How many pieces of paper do you want to shred at the same time? The sheet capacity lets you know how many a shredder can handle at once.
If you work with a lot of confidential documents and have to dispose of them constantly, it’s important to have the right page capacity to get the job done quickly. Basic models shred a maximum of six to eight pages at once, while medium models can handle up to 30 pages, and higher-end models can shred stacks of up to 150 pages.
• Cut type. There are three different styles of paper shredding: strip-cut, cross-cut, and micro-cut.
Strip-cut is the basic shred type. Shredders of this kind only cut paper lengthwise, producing confetti-like strips. They’re typically recommended only for shredding paperwork with non-sensitive information.
Cross-cut shredders, for their part, use two sets of blades to shred paper lengthwise and widthwise, to produce smaller strip pieces. This cut style is ideal for all kinds of paperwork, including documents that contain personal or sensitive information.
Lastly, micro-cut shredders offer the most security by turning paper into particles ten times smaller than cross-cut shredding. They are designed for highly-confidential documents and are even recommended for government agencies.
• Security level. Paper shredders are also classified by security levels. The size of the paper’s particles after being shredded is what determines security level rating.
There are seven security levels, ranging from P1 (lowest level) to P7 (highest level). Generally, each paper cut type is associated with particular security levels: strip-cuts are P1 or P2; cross-cuts, P3 or P4, and micro-cuts, P5 to P7. Those with higher security levels produce smaller paper particles but are also more expensive. For instance, a paper shredder with security level P7 could cost somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000.
Unless you’re in possession of top-secret national security documents, you won’t need such a sophisticated security level. For most people, a cross-cut level P4 or a micro-cut level P5 works perfectly well.
• Waste basket. A small waste bin can be an annoyance if you have to empty it frequently while shredding documents. Our recommendations feature larger bin capacities, ranging from 6 to 9 gallons. (Take into account that a waste bin can hold more particles when the shredder cuts paper into smaller pieces.)
Another detail to consider is the type of bin, whether it’s a pull-out basket or a lift-off basket. Pull-out baskets usually open from the front, which makes them easier to remove and empty. Shredders with lift-off baskets open from the top and are known to cause messes when you lift them, especially when they’re overfull.
• Cool down and run time. Shredders have limits. After working nonstop, they typically need a few minutes’ break to cool down. The cool-down period varies by unit, but in most cases it can take 30 minutes or more.
Similarly, shredders have a maximum run-time. The run-time tells you how many minutes it can continuously shred paper before needing a timeout. Some units can run for about 20 minutes, while others can run for up to an hour or more.
If you want fewer interruptions, consider a paper shredder with a longer run time and a shorter cool-down time.
Best paper shredders
1. Best overall: Fellowes Powershred 99Ms Micro-Cut
If your main concern is privacy and security, the Fellowes Powershred 99Ms is a micro-cut shredder designed to destroy documents into very small particles of just 2mm x 14mm. It’s rated a P5 security level, which is recommended for professionals who need to dispose of sensitive personal, business, or clients’ records, legal forms, tax forms, or financial statements.
The Powershred 99Ms can shred 14 pages in one pass and has an impressively large 9-gallon pull-out basket. Like other Fellowes models, it features SafeSense technology, a safety measure that enables it to stop when someone’s hand gets near the paper opening. To save energy, its sleep mode will shut the unit down after two minutes of inactivity.
Be aware that this particular model has a limited run-time of 20 minutes, with a 40-minute cool-down period. This is not particularly unusual, but for the Powershred 99Ms’ price (around $500), one would expect a longer run-time. For many users, though, this model's capabilities may be more than enough.
2. Editor’s pick: AmazonBasics 15-Sheet Cross-Cut Shredder
AmazonBasics is Amazon’s affordable brand for everyday home goods, office supplies, tech accessories, and other items.
The AmazonBasics 15-sheet paper shredder features a cross-cut blade design that allows it to destroy papers, credit cards, or CDs in two opposite directions, turning them into small confetti pieces. It meets P4 security level standards, which is ideal to shred documents that contain personal information like monthly bills or banking statements.
For the price (around $130), this shredder has a great sheet capacity — a maximum of 15 pages in one pass — and a continuous run time of 20 minutes. It comes with a 6-gallon pull-out waste bin, which for a paper shredder of its size is more than sufficient. Additionally, this model features an auto-reverse mode that allows it to reduce paper jams by returning the paper back to you when it detects an overload or possible jam.
Do note that some reviewers complain that the shredder is loud, and that it works more slowly when confronted with thicker stacks of paper. This could become an inconvenience if you want to work at a fast pace.
3. Best for low prices: Aurora AS420C Cross-Cut Paper Shredder
At a price of only around $30, the Aurora AS420C can get the job done if you have minimal paper shredding needs and little space to spare.
This cross-cut shredder is small — about the size of toaster — and can be conveniently placed on top of a desk or a countertop. It features a 4.5-inch wide paper feed entry, ideal for shredding up to four folded papers in one pass. Its 1.32-gallon wastebasket is not the largest option out there but can hold the remnants of about 40 sheets of shredded paper, including junk mail, bank statements, and credit cards.
If you prefer a shredder with more capacity that’s still very affordable, take a look at the Aurora AU870MA. For about $20 more, this model offers almost triple the wastebasket capacity and shreds up to six paper sheets at the same time, including staples and small paper clips.
4. Best for small offices: Fellowes Powershred 79Ci Shredder
For a well-rounded paper shredder for a small office or your home, the Fellowes Powershred 79Ci is an excellent option. This paper shredder features a cross-cut mechanism that reduces papers, credit cards, staples, paper clips, and even CDs and DVDs into small particles of approximately 5/32 of an inch — certainly small enough to protect your personal information.
The Powershred 79Ci is specially designed to be 100% jam-proof. It can prevent the shutter from being overfed and pause the motor when you misfeed paper. A light bar also lets you know when you’re shredding within the recommended capacity or exceeding it.
The 79Ci has a convenient 6-gallon pull-out bin and can run for up to 20 minutes, with a 30-minute cool-down period. It comes with Fellowes' SafeSense technology, which immediately stops the unit when you touch the paper opening, so it's suitable for home offices where there are kids or pets.
As for the downsides, some reviewers say that the caster wheels are difficult to install. Others claim the pull-out bin is difficult to remove without getting shredded paper on the floor and also hard to reinsert.
5. Best heavy duty shredder: Bonsaii EverShred C149-C
With a run-time of up to 60 minutes and a cool-down time of just 10 minutes, the Bonsaii EverShred C149-C offers a high-performance motor for those who prefer to do their shredding as one uninterrupted task.
The C149-C’s blade handles up to 18 sheets in a single pass. It can destroy small paper clips, staples, CDs/DVDs, and credit cards. It has P3 level security, meaning it can be used to shred documents with confidential information into particles of approximately 5mm x 40mm. Additionally, it has auto start/reverse functions, which allows it to automatically shred when you feed it documents and reverse when misfed, reducing paper jams.
Another remarkable detail is that its motor is reasonably quiet, with a noise level of 62 decibels (dB). That's comparable to a conversation in an office setting. In addition, Bonsaii offers an 18-month warranty for the machine, and 5 years for the cutter.