Worried about opportunistic thieves picking your social security number out of the trash? We spent hundreds of hours testing 11 of the best shredders available, all so that you can securely dispose of sensitive documents. Shredders look fairly homogenous, with seemingly very little difference between models, apart from size. Our testing uncovered all of the subtle yet significant things that make these machines different from one another. After shredding thousands of sheets of paper and hundreds of CDs and credit cards (don't worry, it was all recycled) we can help you find the perfect shredder for your needs.
The Best Paper Shredders of 2018
To kick off our summer shredding bonanza we put the AmazonBasics 24-Sheet and the Fellowes Powershred 73Ci through our rigorous testing procedures. Both of these machines impressed us, but neither stuck out enough to earn any awards. If you already have one of these machines, we see no reason to upgrade, but if you're in the market for a new model, we think some of our award winners below would serve you better.
Best Overall Shredder
AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Micro-Cut
If you tend to shred more than 10 pages at a time, and want those pages to be as difficult to reconstruct as possible, the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Micro-Cut is your best bet. Despite reliably shredding everything into indecipherable, micro-cut sized confetti, this paper shredder is still able to tear through 72 pages per minute. It backs up that speed and security with impressive power. This machine was nearly impossible to jam in our testing. It gobbled up CDs, credit cards, staples, and paper clips without skipping a beat.
We only had very minor complaints about the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Micro-Cut. The first being the window on its bin, which is quite small. This makes it easy to overfill the bin without noticing, which can then result in a mess when you do remember to empty it. Overall, this shredder reaches a near perfect balance of security, speed, and power, all at a relatively reasonable price.
Read review: AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Micro-Cut
Best Bang for the Buck: Cross-Cut
AmazonBasics 6-Sheet Cross-Cut
If you've managed to go mostly digital and only need to dispose of the odd credit card application or billing statement that gets sent your way, the AmazonBasics 6-Sheet Cross-Cut is the perfect solution. It quickly and easily disposes of short documents, and can even shred old credit cards. Plus, it is small enough that it can pretty much disappear under your desk when not in use. And, you get all this for only $30.
The AmazonBasics 6-Sheet Cross-Cut's limitations mostly come from its size. The bin is small and can fill up quickly if you shred a lot, and the 6-sheet capacity means you probably won't be able to shove unopened junk mail envelopes into the slot. It also is not rated for shredding CDs. The cross-cut shred size is also slightly less secure than micro-cut, but still makes it very unlikely that anyone could find any sensitive information in the trash. If you only shred a few pages a day or less, this little shredder offers all you need at a low price.
Read review: AmazonBasics 6-Sheet Cross-Cut
Best Bang for the Buck: Micro-Cut
Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut
If you only shred a few pages here and there, but want the peace of mind that those pages have been rendered as illegible as possible, the Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut is one of the most effective and least expensive ways to go. For a list price of $55 you get the top-notch security of micro-cut. The DocShred is particularly adept at shredding credit cards, which is one instance where we feel the additional security of micro-cut is really useful. The separate CD slot lets you shred CDs without dulling the main blades. We also found the handle on the shredding unit surprisingly helpful when emptying the bin.
Like most small shredders, the DocShred struggles with thick junk mail envelopes and isn't particularly fast (it maxes out at 40 pages/minute). The noise it makes is also a bit grating. If you consistently find yourself shredding 10+ page documents, you might start to get annoyed by the DocShred's lack of speed and screeching sound. But if you tend to only shred a few documents a week, the DocShred is one of the least expensive ways to get the security of micro-cut.
Read review: Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut
Best Shredder for High Volume Shredding
Fellowes Powershred 99Ci
If you're currently staring at boxes of files that all need to be shredded, the Fellowes PowerShred 99Ci can make fast work of them. In our testing it clocked an incredible speed of 180 pages per minute (that means you can shred every page of War and Peace in under 7 minutes, we calculated it). It also readily gobbled up everything we threw t it, from thick envelopes to CDs and credit cards. Despite that power the PowerShred was one of the quietest models we tested (your cubicle mates will certainly notice it, but they likely won't want to strangle you).
Obviously the cross-cut blades of the PowerShred produce slightly larger shreds than micro-cut blades. However, cross-cut still offers a very high level of security, and disposing of lots of shreds at once makes it even more unlikely any opportunistic thieves will be able to piece and information back together. The biggest strike against the PowerShred is its price. Listing for $270, it is quite an investment. If you're consistently shredding 100+ page documents, however, the time savings will be well worth the extra cost.
Read review: Fellowes Powershred 99Ci
Great for Occasional Use, and Doesn't Take Up Space
Aurora AS420C Desktop
If you've managed to keep your paper documents to the bare minimum, but still want a convenient way to dispose of the few sensitive pages that end up on your desk, the Aurora AS420C Desktop is a great choice. This tiny, no frills shredder is powerful enough to shred a few pages or even a credit card, yet is small enough that it can inconspicuously live on a shelf or corner of your desk until it is needed. The noise it makes is also surprisingly innocuous and lacks that over the top, high-pitched whine you might expect from a smaller machine.
This machine clearly isn't meant for heavy use. Long documents or frequent shredding would certainly warrant a larger unit, as frequent use is going to stress the tiny motor in this machine. But iff you don't want to sacrifice too much office real estate to a shredder and only need to shred a few pages a week, this could be the perfect solution.
Analysis and Test Results
With all of the new and sophisticated ways that our personal information can be compromised digitally, it is easy to forget that information still exists on physical sheets of paper that can be stolen the old fashioned way. In fact, there is no law against searching through trash that has been left outside a home to be collected (see 1988 case of California vs. Greenwood). So if you have any documents that could help a potential identity thief, getting a good paper shredder is a worthwhile investment.
Our overall scores are based on a number of different tests. The majority of our testing was focused on how well each one of our models shredded. We also evaluated how quickly they shredded, how loud they were, and how easy they were to use. The sections that follow detail how all of the models performed in those individual tests.
When considering shredding quality the factor we weighted most heavily was security, as this is the sole reason for purchasing a shredder. This essentially resulted in the micro-cut models getting a significant bump up in our scoring compared to the cross-cut models. We also tested how well each model performed common tasks like shredding standard junk mail and other items, such as CDs and credit cards. To assess robustness we shoved paper into each model for 15 continuous minutes, observing how easy they were to jam and whether they struggled at all with that kind of volume. None of the models we tested overheated during this test, meaning they will all be able to handle the standard workloads of a home user or small office. We also scoured user reviews to determine whether there were any prevalent durability or manufacturing flaws. Finally, we tested each model's shredding capacity. We did not rate shredding capacity in absolute terms, but rather how close each model was able to come to its advertised shredding capacity. We found that exceeding a model's shredding capacity produced shredded paper waffles that retained legible characters and could not be fed back into the machines, meaning you would have to tediously shred them by hand. Thus we felt having an accurately advertised shredding capacity was more important for shred quality than being able to shred more sheets at once. Models with higher capacities do tend to be able to shred faster, and those models gained points in our speed metric. For more on shredding capacity see our buying advice article.
All of the models we tested were able to shred effectively, so there were no scores lower than 4 in this metric. However, there were significant performance differences between models. Far and away the best contestant in our sensational shredding showdown was the AmazonBasics 12-sheet Micro-Cut, which earned the top score of 9. It handled its advertised maximum capacity of 12 sheets without emitting a so much as a squeak of protest. It also ate up full envelopes of junk mail, CD's, and credit cards with ease. To boot it does all this with the added security of micro-cut.
The Fellowes Powershred 99Ciearned an 8 out of 10 in our shredding quality testing. It was by far the most powerful model we tested, easily tackling its advertised capacity of 18-sheets and gobbling up everything from CDs to large junk mail envelopes. The only mark against it is the fact that it uses cross-cut blades rather than micro-cut. The AmazonBasics 24-Sheet was similarly powerful, able to tear through a stack of 26 sheets at a clip. It also has cross-cut blades, which prevented it from earning a top score.
The Royal HD1400MX and the Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut both scored a 7. The Royal HD1400MX was usually able to handle its advertised 14 sheet capacity with aplomb, but we did run into one instance where it struggled and jammed. This, and the fact that it is a cross-cut model rather than a micro-cut is the only reason it lost points in this metric. Otherwise it swallowed junk mail and other odd items with no issue, and user reviews indicate that it has long-term reliability and durability. The Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut scored highly in this metric mostly because of the added security of its micro-cutting blades. Apart from this it was a fairly mediocre performer. It was able to handle its advertised capacity of 8 sheets but emitted a noise reminiscent of a dying weasel when doing so. Thick junk mail envelopes often caused issues as well. It utilizes a second set of blades just for shredding CD's, which are cut into three pieces. This is plenty secure unless you happen to have nuclear launch codes on your CD's, but it is both less satisfying and inspires less confidence than seeing a CD ripped into tiny bits.
Closely following the group of top scorers were the Fellowes Powershred 79Ci, the Fellowes Powershred 73Ci, and the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut, all of which scored 6. Besides having the best name of the bunch, the Powershred 79Ci was able to easily burn through junk mail envelopes and CD's and has great user reviews, indicating a high level of durability. It lost points because of the relatively decreased security of cross-cut and the fact that it jammed when loaded with its advertised capacity of 16 sheets. It did just fine with 14 sheets, but those loading it up to its advertised capacity would have to deal with jams or decreased shredding quality. The AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut was able to handle its advertised capacity of 12 sheets, but the motor did sound like it required some effort to do so. Otherwise it ripped through most items with ease, making fast work of junk mail and credit cards. The Powershred 73Ci handled its advertised capacity of 12-sheets easily and was able to handle thick junk mail envelopes, though the motor did sound like it was struggling on occasion. It also offers cross-cut level security.
Three separate models scored a 5 in our shredding quality testing, the first of which was the AmazonBasics 6-sheet Cross-Cut. Like its big brother it easily shredded through its advertised capacity of 6 sheets. However, it easily jams when inserting junk mail envelopes and, while it can handle credit cards, it is not robust enough to shred CDs. Also in the 5 score club was the Fellowes Powershred 60Cs. This cross-cut model was able to shred its advertised capacity of 10 sheets, but groaned and moaned a bit while doing so. In general the Powershred 60Cs was not particularly burly, it struggled with thick envelopes and other odd items, and is only rated to shred credit cards, not CD's. The final model to score a 5 was the Bonsaii EverShred C169-B. This model was able to handle odd stock like thick envelopes and CDs with ease. It lost points due to the decreased security of cross-cut when compared to micro-cut, and the fact that its advertised capacity and the capacity we observed were significantly different. While the EverShred C169-B claims a 14 sheet capacity, we could only ever get it to effectively shred 10. This sets up the possibility of creating wads of partially shredded paper if you shred at the advertised capacity, which are barely more secure than not shredding at all.
If your career or financial strategies tend to generate lots of sensitive paperwork, or you like to let your shredding jobs build up and then do them all in one go, greater speed will vastly improve your shredding experience. As cathartic as it is to take nice, clean paper and annihilate it into tiny bits, you probably wouldn't want to spend hours doing so. We tested speed by timing how long each model took to shred its maximum single pass capacity, and then calculating a pages per minute figure from this data. We either used the advertised maximum capacity, if we found the shredder could actually handle it, or our observed maximum capacity if it was lower than the manufacturer's claim. As you get used to your shredder you get a feel for how much material it can handle at once and for grabbing stacks of paper that are roughly that size. Therefore, this test approximates the speed you would experience when completing a large shred job. We also measured speed using smaller stacks of paper, but the results did not differ greatly, and we believe the maximum capacity speed test is the most relevant to real world use.
The fastest of the bunch was the Fellowes Powershred 99Ci, which scored a perfect 10 out of 10 in our speed testing. It managed to conquer 180 pages per minute in our testing wihtout even uttering a single moan. The Powershred 79Ci was slightly behind its sibling. Even though we found its maximum capacity to be exaggerated, it was still able to clock an astonishing speed of 140 sheets per minute when shredding at our observed maximum capacity. This was nearly double the speed of the next closest competitor, and put it well ahead of most of the competition. The AmazonBasics 24-Sheet clocked 114 sheets a minute, still plenty fast for the vast majority of people. The Fellowes PowerShred 73Ci posted 109 pages per minute.
Coming in a distant third to the Powershred models were four models that all scored a 7. The AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Micro-Cut logged a pace of 72 sheets per minute in this test. Although much slower than the top scorers, it is impressive when you consider that it shreds into much tinier pieces. The AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut also earned a 7, and matched its micro-cut sibling's speed of 72 sheets per minute. Just behind these models was the Bonsaii EverShred C169-B, which tore through paper at 70 sheets per minute. The Fellowes Powershred 60Cs was quick, but not as quick as its big brother. It logged a speed of 67 sheets per minute in our test. The AmazonBasics 6-Sheet Cross-Cut was the final model to score a 7, posting a respectable 60 sheets per minute when shredding at its maximum capacity.
The Royal 1400MX just missed out on being in the group of high scorers. It earned a 6, and was just slightly slower at 55 sheets per minute. The two bottom scorers, however, were well separated from the rest of the pack. The Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut scored a 4 with a relatively slow speed of 44 sheets per minute. This is just slightly better than half the speed of most of the high scorers and is just a bit more than a quarter the speed of the top scorer. This sacrifice in speed is most likely due to the DocShred offering the advanced security of micro-cut at a low price.
Ease of Use
When shredding, the most significant ease of use related factor is emptying the bin. Some models require you to remove the shredding unit to access and empty the bin. This isn't a huge hassle if you keep your shredding machine in an easily accessible location, but can be a pain if you want to keep it hidden away under your desk. Some models have a drawer style bin that can be pulled out from the front of the unit. This makes them much easier to access and empty, especially if they're tucked away somewhere. However, if models like these don't have a good indicator of when they're full you may end up creating a confetti snowstorm when you pull the drawer out. Bin volume also relates to ease of use as the more paper shreds a bin can hold the less often you'll have to empty it. As these are very simple machines they all have correspondingly simple interfaces, but there are some noticeable differences between models. Throughout the testing process all of our testers used, abused, and emptied every single model in this review, so they had some pretty strong opinions when assigning ease of use scores.
The most user friendly model we tested was the Fellowes Powershred 79Ci, which scored an 8 in the ease of use metric. It has a couple of added features that are by no means necessary, but are certainly nice, like a sensor that shuts the machine down when a finger gets close to the slot, and a plastic guard for shredding stiff items like CDs to ensure no shrapnel flies out of the device. The clear full indicator ensures you'll know to empty the bin before it becomes a primed avalanche of paper shreds. The 6-gallon bin pulls out from the font and was the easiest to remove of any model. It's sibling, the Fellowes Powershred 73Ci functions very similarly and also earned a score of 8 out of 10.
Just outside of the top slot were two models that both scored a 7. The AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Micro-Cut boasts a simple, intuitive interface and an easy to remove, drawer style, 6.7-gallon bin. It missed out on the top spot because its only full indicator is a small window on the front of the bin. This meant our testers often unknowingly over loaded it, resulting in confetti snowstorms during the emptying process. The Royal HD1400MX also scored a 7. Like the AmazonBasics Micro-Cut it has a nice interface and an easy to remove, drawer style, 6.2 gallon bin. However, it has no full indicator, meaning you have to periodically check the bin to avoid overloading it. This inconvenience knocked it out of the top spot.
Most models fell into the midrange in our ease of use testing, with six different models earning a score of 6 out fo 10. These models were neither annoying to use, nor did they offer anything that made them feel especially user friendly. The AmazonBasics 6-Sheet Cross-Cut is a small model that can fit just about anywhere and has a no frills interface with one switch. However, its small 3.8 gallon bin needs to be emptied frequently. Also, the shredding unit sits on top of the bin, meaning it must be lifted off the bin in order to empty it. This can be inconvenient, especially if you want to hide it away under a desk. The AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut has almost an identical interface to its smaller sibling, but its bin is slightly bigger (4.8 gallons) and it includes a CD shredding slot. The Fellowes Powershred 60Cs has the same safety sensor as the 79Ci, and a slightly dumbed down version of its interface. It also has a shredding unit that sits on on top of a 6-gallon bin. The shredding unit is quite heavy and requires two hands to move around. The Powershred 99Ci has the same safety sensor and a very large 9-gallon pullout bin. However, its sheer size makes it a bit difficult to move around. The AmazonBasics 24-Sheet has a nice interface and is easy to empty, but it is very large and takes up a lot of space.
Continuing down the list of models that scored a 6 in our ease of use testing, the Bonsaii EverShred C169-B has simple controls and a drawer style bin that is easy to remove. However, the bin is relatively small at 4.5 gallons and has only a small window at the front as a fill indicator. The final model to score a 6 in our ease of use testing was the Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut. It has a balance on top of the shredding unit that must be removed to empty the 5.5-gallon bin, but it includes a built-in handle that makes this easy to do with one hand. It also includes a window on the front of the bin to gauge how full it is. A separate shredding slot is used just for CDs, which saves the main blades if you shred a lot of CDs.
Most of the models we tested scored between 6 and 8 in our ease of use testing, meaning none of them were particularly annoying or unpleasant. The main differentiating factors for ease of use were user interface, ease of emptying, and safety features.
Noise was our lowest weighted testing metric. This is because you will probably only use your shredder infrequently and/or in short bursts, so even the noisiest models won't pose a problem for most people. However, if you're especially sensitive to noise, will be shredding in a crowded office situation, or need to hide your latest doughnut binge from your wife by discreetly shredding the receipt, you will want to look for a quieter model. We first tested noise using a decibel meter, but the results weren't very differentiating and didn't correspond to how annoying we thought each model actually sounded. So we ended up scoring each subjectively, based on how bearable/unbearable we found the screeches emanating from each model.
Let's face it, no shredder sounds pleasant, but the Powershred 99Ci comes close. Its low pitched hum is noticeable but not terribly grating, making it the least offensive of the bunch. The Fellowes Powershred 79Ci earned a 9 out of 10 in this metric. It had a fairly low pitched, consistent hum that could almost fade into the background. The AmazonBasics 24-Sheet had a similarly low hum that wasn't too grating on the ears. It also scored a 9 out of 10. The Fellowes Powershred 79Ci was closest to the top scores with a 7 out of 10. It keeps the noise fairly low, but with some higher pitched crackling noises thrown in.
Next up is the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Micro-Cut which earned a 6. The AmazonBasics had a fairly low pitch, but with some higher pitched crinkling noise mixed in, which made it a tad more annoying. The Fellowes 73Ci also earned a 6 out of 10. It also produced a low hum but with some noticable crinkling paper accents thrown into the mix.
There were two models that scored a 5. The Royal HD1400MX had a more bearable low pitched tone, but with some very loud accents of crinkling that start to fray the nerves after a while. The Bonsaii EverShred C169-B was very similar with a lower frequency interspersed with more frazzling crinkling noises.
All of the models at the bottom of the noise testing barrel ended up there because of grating, high pitched frequencies. The AmazonBasics 6-Sheet Cross-Cut scored a 4 in this metric. Its high pitched squeal is bearable but would get annoying pretty fast, and definitely would not endear you to your officemates. The AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut's motor produced almost identically grating sounds, and thus received the same score. However, these models weren't wasn't quite as bad as the two bottom scorers. Both the Fellowes Powershred 60Cs and the Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut scored a 3 in the noise metric. Both had similar, high pitched shrieks that would probably require earplugs or some serious Zen meditation for any shred sessions lasting more than a few minutes.
Different people will naturally require different levels of security and different amounts of capacity in their shredders. We hope our testing reults have narrowed the field and helped you find the perfect paper shredder for your needs and budget.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for tips.