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How to buy the best shredder

By Andrew Laughlin

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

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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 micro-cut shredders 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.

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.

Our interactive tool will walk you through the key features and buying decisions to consider.

Strip-cut vs cross-cut vs micro-cut shredders

You may not be aware that the type of shredder you purchase will have an impact on the overall security of your document shredding.

Shredders traditionally were strip-cut, also known as ribbon-cut, models that shredded the paper into thin strips. Although it would require patience, it would be possible to reconstruct the strips into a legible document.

More secure are cross-cut models, sometimes known as diamond-cut, as they shred the paper into small pieces a bit like wedding confetti. It would be much harder for someone to reassemble them. 

The most secure type is micro-cut, as these models slice paper into such tiny pieces that a criminal would find it extremely difficult, near impossible, to put them back together.  

We'd advise you to go for either a cross-cut or micro-cut shredder to maximise your security. Find your perfect model in our Best Buy shredders

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.

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.

What you should and shouldn’t shred

You should shred anything that bears your name, address or financial details. The most obvious items include bank statements, utility bills and legal documents.

However, there’s a variety of other material that potentially contains personal information, and so you shouldn’t just throw it away, including;

  • Junk mail and magazines
  • Receipts from deliveries and online shopping orders
  • Pre-approved credit card applications
  • CVs
  • Self-assessment tax forms
  • Pay slips
  • Cancelled or voided cheques
  • Luggage tags
  • Used airline tickets
  • Old passports and visas
  • Boarding passes
  • Travel itineraries
  • Family medical documents
  • Pet medical documents

If the document doesn’t have any personal data, then there’s no need to spend time and effort shredding it. Just put it in the recycling bin instead

Shredder 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.

Shredder DIN security explained

DIN stands for Deutsches Institut für Normung, which is essentially the standards body for Germany. It sets standards for products that apply across Europe and internationally. 

The DIN standard for shredders essentially rates the size of shredded bits based on a seven point scale, going from 1 being the largest pieces to 7 being such tiny particles that this would satisfy even the most stringent security needs. 

If you have a lot of sensitive data that you want to shred, we'd recommend you go for a DIN level of 3 of higher, as this should reduce it to pieces that are hard to put back together. 

You can see the DIN security level of all shredders we test in the Tech Specs tab on each review. You can also filter the reviews based on DIN level. 

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