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How to buy the best shredder

By Adam Marshall

From shredding the occasional letter or credit card to dealing with a pile of paperwork and bills, we cut through the facts to find the best paper shredder for you.

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Why buy a shredder?

Paper shredders are the ideal tool if you’re mindful of security, and the best models have a range of features designed to make it as easy as possible to dispose of your personal data and avoid identity theft.

We explain the difference between diamond- and cross-cut shredders, the benefits of CD and credit card slots, and why you should watch out for overflows.

Take a look at our shredder Best Buys, to discover the models that Which? recommends.

Home shredders

Paper shredders aren’t the most attractive of machines, so you would probably prefer one that won’t take up too much space. In fact, you may want to choose a model that will squeeze into a cupboard when not in use. The smallest shredder we’ve tested is a dinky 24x19x15cm.

Pros: As well as being easier to store away, small home shredders are easy to move around. And, generally speaking, the smaller the shredder the less you’ll pay. In fact, we've found a few Best Buy shredders for less than £60.

Cons: The very smallest shredders won’t even take A4 paper unless you fold it first, and you’ll have to empty the bin more regularly, too. So if you’re frequently destroying a lot of documents, go for something bigger.

Larger shredders

We’ve tested shredders that tower over the half-metre mark. You probably wouldn’t want one in your living room, but bulkier machines may be a better option if you run a business or if you have stacks of information to shred.

Pros: The bigger the shredder, the more space inside its bin. You’ll be able to feed more sheets of paper simultaneously with these larger models, and they tend to be able to take thicker materials, too

Cons: Avoid these shredders if you want something you can easily pop away in the cupboard after use. As with a lot of household products, the bigger they come the more they cost.

What makes the best shredder?

Only Which?’s in-depth lab testing can single out the very best shredders. But there are other specifications you can check in the shop before buying your shredder.

Cross cut or diamond cut: Cross-cut shredders are the most common type we’ve tested, although there are plenty of diamond-cut models on the market, too. Both types slice your document in two directions, making the pieces hard to re-assemble and read. But you should avoid strip or ribbon-cut shredders, as the long strips they produce can be put back together by determined thieves.

Bin size: If your paper shredder is going to see a lot of use, opt for one with a big bin, to prevent constantly having to empty it. A 10-litre bin will take around 60 shredded sheets - the shredders we’ve tested have bins that range between four and 22 litres.

Maximum page load: Be sure to check how many pages a shredder can handle at once. It's not much fun feeding a couple of pages in every time if you have a lot of paperwork to dispose of. You can feed in 14 simultaneous sheets of paper to the ‘throat’ of one of our Best Buys, while one model we’ve tested only has a gap big enough for four sheets.

Slot size: Shredder slots are primarily A5 or A4-sized. A5 shredders require A4 sheets to be folded first, which means you can't shred as many pages at once.

Other shredder features to consider

As well as size, price and cutting type, there are plenty of other aspects that you need to consider when purchasing a paper shredder. We’ve rounded up the features to look out for when you go shredder shopping:

Transparent bin: Opt for a shredder that has a transparent bin – or at least a window – so you can see when it's starting to fill up. Overflows can lead to the shredder jamming and no longer working.

CD slot: Some shredders can handle CDs and DVDs – either through the main slot or a separate one. If you have sensitive data written to disc, consider a model with this function.

Credit-card slot: A credit-card shredder can be a handy way of securely getting rid of those old cards. If you're recycling, be sure to separate your cards from the paper shreddings when disposing of them.

Safety functions: The following functions probably won’t be deal breakers, but may prove handy:

  • Auto start - The shredder automatically detects when paper is being fed into the slot, meaning your fingers don't have to stray near the cutters.
  • Auto stop - This stops the shredder automatically when it becomes jammed, preventing further damage.
  • Bin safety flap - A mechanism that prevents more paper being shredded when the bin gets full.
  • Bin top interlock - This stops the shredder from being operated when not connected to the bin.
  • Motor reverse - Auto reverse is useful in case of jams. The motor turns backwards, hopefully causing it to spit out whatever caused the clog.
  • Thermal safety switch - If your shredder overheats, this feature will automatically stop it.
Now find the perfect paper shredder for you by checking out our shredder reviews.
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