Don’t let your old bills or sensitive paperwork fall into the wrong hands – shred them securely with these powerhouse document destroyers
While most of us are distracted by online security, going through discarded paperwork remains one of the easiest ways to steal someone’s identity. Before it’s binned or recycled, it’s a good idea to destroy anything that has your personal or business details on it, from piles of paperwork and bills to credit cards and DVDs/CDs. The best paper shredder will make even the biggest of jobs easy to tackle, giving you peace of mind that your identity is that little bit safer.
Most bills and statements are paperless these days, but if you’re working from home temporarily or have always run your business from your spare room, you will still find yourself with important paperwork stacking up. One of the biggest mistakes most people make when buying a shredder is choosing one that isn’t robust enough or the right capacity for the amount that needs to be processed. Similarly, buying one that needs to cool down every few minutes from being overloaded will mean you will just end up putting off shredding altogether. Buy right and you can keep on top of your waste paper.
Below, we’ve put together a handy guide to help you choose the best paper shredder for your needs, no matter how tight or generous your budget. If you already have an idea of what you want, we’ve also listed our pick of the best paper shredders a little further down the page.
Best paper shredder: At a glance
- Best affordable shredder: ProAction 5 Sheet 10 Litre Strip-Cut Shredder | £19
- Best compact shredder: Rexel 2101942UK | £53
- Best heavy duty paper shredder: Fellowes LX200 | £210
How to choose the best paper shredder for you
What types of shredder are available?
There are three types of shredder: strip or ribbon-cut, where the sheet is cut into thin strips; cross-cut or diamond-cut, which shreds a sheet in two directions, turning an A4 piece of paper into around 410 particles; and micro-cut, which is a type of cross-cut.
Micro-cut is sometimes referred to as “confetti-cut” and is perfect for sensitive information, turning a sheet of paper into as many as 3,000 pieces. Bear in mind that micro-cut shredders work harder, so will usually handle fewer sheets at a time and need more breaks to cool down.
A ribbon-cut shredder is serviceable if you’re on a budget, but bear in mind that strips can be taped back together. For peace of mind, a cross-cut shredder is always recommended.
What features should I look for in a paper shredder?
It’s unlikely you’ll want a shredder on display all the time, so its size will be a compromise between how much you need to shred regularly, and storing it in a cupboard or under a desk. Compact models are easy to stash away, but be aware that some may not even be wide enough for an A4 sheet and need emptying frequently. Bigger machines will suit a home office and often have more features but will be heavier to move around.
If you’re planning on frequent shredding, invest in a model with a large bin. For example, a 10l bin can accommodate around 60 sheets of paper. A bin that’s easy to empty will be a bonus – many have bottom bins with lift-off heads that can make a mess when you remove them, but there are others that have removable or pull-out bins. A transparent window will help you to see when it’s almost full, so you can prevent overflow and potential paper jams.
Each shredder will have a maximum page limit denoting how many sheets it can shred at a time. Cheaper designs can often only process five or six sheets, while mid-market models can shred ten or 15 at a time. Noise levels can be an issue for prolonged shredding sessions. Most make about the same level of noise as a washing machine (although the pitch may be more annoying) but if you prefer something quieter, look for a model that’s designed to make less noise.
Some shredders are able to destroy other articles, such as credit cards or DVDs and CDs with sensitive information written to them, either in the same slot or a separate one. If you’re recycling, collect the plastic particles separately from your shredded paper. Most can handle the odd staple, but if what you’re shredding has lots of paperclips, check that your shredder can cope without damaging the blades.
Safety features are important: auto start means the shredder detects when paper is being fed in, so your fingers don’t have to push it down near the blades. An auto shut-off that stops shredding when hands are detected is also a good idea. If you have young children or pets, a safety lock will disable the shredder when not in use or you can look for a model with an interlocking bin that prevents it from being operated when the bin isn’t connected. A thermal safety switch will stop your shredder overheating – it takes about 30 minutes for a motor to cool down properly, so look for a model with a long runtime (this can be referred to as the shredder’s duty cycle) if you like to do all your shredding in one go.
Finally, features that help prevent or clear jams will save time and frustration. A basic reverse function can often clear a clog but you can also find auto-reverse, where the shredder will spit the paper out straight away if it senses an impending jam. Anti-jam technologies are even cleverer and are usually found on pricier models – this means they’ll have a powerful motor that pulls the paper jam through.
How much should I spend?
Size tends to dictate price – the bigger the machine, the most costly it’ll usually be – but it’s possible to find an efficient cross-cut shredder for as little as £30. Quality impacts on the price too, with more expensive models often being more robust and more powerful.
As a rough guide, budget around £50 for an everyday shredder, at least £100 for a home-office model and £150 upwards for heavy/business use. Add a little into your budget for blade oil to keep it running smoothly – a good guide is to oil the shredder every time the bin is full.
How we test paper shredders
We put each shredder through a gruelling battery of tests. We begin by timing how long the shredder takes to digest five A4 sheets, from slot to bin. Then we test again, but this time we fill the slot with the maximum number of sheets, as specified by the manufacturer. We also test continuous feeding – running documents through the shredder, one after the other – for a minute. And we check how well each shredder copes with thicker card and, if the shredder permits, old credit cards or store cards.
We check the capacity of the bin, as well as how easy it is to access and empty. We also take particular care to check the effectiveness of any safety features, short of jamming our own fingers into the slot. Finally, we use a pass-through power meter to check power consumption during operation, along with a smartphone-based sound level meter to assess noise levels.
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The best paper shredders you can buy in 2023
1. ProAction 5 Sheet 10 Litre Strip-Cut Shredder: Best affordable shredder
Price when reviewed: £19 | Check price at Argos If all you need is a simple shredder solution on a tight budget, this five-sheet model will happily turn your bills into ribbons in a flash. It’s light on features, although the reverse will still come in handy for clearing paper jams, and there’s a safety cutout to minimise the chance of accidents with curious fingers.
The basket is a little small at only 10l, especially as it can process at a speedy 3m of paper a minute, but it’s not excessively noisy, which is a bonus for an affordable shredder. It’s basic but great for people who aren’t sure how much use they’ll get out of a shredder before owning one.
Key specs – Size: 39.5 x 13.5 x 28.5cm (HWD); Bin capacity: 10l; Max sheets: 5; Type: Strip-cut; Features: Visible bin level, reverse, safety cutout
2. Rexel 2101942UK Style Cross-Cut Shredder: Best compact shredder
Price when reviewed: £53 | Check price at Amazon When the last thing you want is another obstacle on the floor or something taking up shelf space, look to this glossy ultra-compact model. Lightweight at 3.6kg and easily stored in a cupboard, it’s perfect for occasional shredding of statements and bills, and will even chew through credit cards (although it won’t destroy CDs).
Simply shred up to five sheets at a time and watch it turn an A4 sheet into around 400 4 x 35mm pieces. Its 7.5l bin will hold up to 50 sheets. Staples and paperclips pass through its blades happily, although a limited runtime of two minutes before cooldown could prove frustrating if you don’t shred regularly.
Key specs – Size: 36 x 17 x 32cm (HWD); Bin capacity: 7.5l; Max sheets: 5; Type: Cross-cut; Features: Autostart, reverse, credit card shredding
3. Rexel Secure X6A: Best paper shredder for light home office use
Price when reviewed: £55 | Check price at AmazonThe Rexel Secure X6A would make a fine family paper shredder, but it’s also capable enough to crossover into light home office use. It can take six sheets at a time and run continuously for up to three minutes. As the shredder takes just under 10 seconds to chew through six A4 sheets, you can get through roughly 36 pages in a minute. So a fair chunk of old documents or bills can be transformed into strips roughly 4cm long before you know it.
We didn’t encounter any problems with jams, or staples sticking in the feeder while putting letters and documents through continuously. And it’s relatively quiet in operation, at just 59.9dB. Unfortunately, there’s no pull-out bin – the shredder module simply lifts off – but it’s a simple, effective shredder that gets the job done. Just make sure you turn the Secure 6A off when not in use as, while it consumes around 105W when it’s busy shredding, it still uses somewhere between 1.5W and 2W when it’s sitting idle.
Key specs – Size: 30.2 x 32.1 x 17cm (HWD); Bin capacity: 10l; Max sheets: 6; Type: Cross-cut; Features: Visible bin level, manual forward/reverse, safety cutout
4. Fellowes LX200: Best heavy-duty paper shredder
Price when reviewed: £210 | Check price at AmazonIf you need a shredder that can take on some heavy workloads, the Fellowes LX200 is the one. It can manage up to 12 sheets at once – provided you’re sticking with standard 80gsm office paper – and will run non-stop for up to 10 minutes before it needs to take a 15-minute cooldown. Given that it takes less than six seconds to turn those 12 sheets into so much micro-cut confetti, it will get through a healthy stack of unwanted paperwork in no time.
In our testing, it handled staples, credit cards and continuous feeding without a pause, though an overload cutout kicks in if you try to feed it more than twelve sheets at a time. The same might also happen if you offer it an unruly mass of different pages, bills and letters, and its Safesense feature will stop it running if it detects hands, or paws, in the danger zone.
Despite its paper-shredding prowess, the LX200 isn’t too noisy: we measured a maximum of 62.1dB during operation. And while it’s more power-hungry than some shredders – using up to 148W – it’s much more frugal while in standby than others – just 0.7W – and it even shuts down if it’s left idle for 5 minutes. With clear indicators on the top and a convenient pull-out 22l bin, this paper shredder is equipped for anything. It’s almost a pleasure watching it go to work.
Key specs – Size: 59 x 43.2 x 29cm (HWD); Bin capacity: 22l; Max sheets: 12; Type: Micro-cut; Features: Visible bin level, manual forward/reverse, overload cutout, safety cutout, productivity and runtime indicators