Document shredder with paper shreds - closeup

How To Properly Maintain Your Shredder

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No matter what kind of paper shredder you have, you’ll need to do some maintenance at some point. And, if you do, you are going to avoid any problems that will limit your shredding capabilities.

It does not matter if you have a small home shredder, a heavy-duty office shredder, or an industrial-strength shredder, a little troubleshooting, maintenance, and cleaning, is going to keep you shredding for longer.

Here’s how to keep your shredder running smoothly.

Maintenance Tips

These tips are easy to follow, and they will prolong the life of your paper shredder.

Stay Below The Maximum Capacity

Your shredder has a maximum capacity. It is always recommended that you do not shred more than the maximum capacity, or you risk damaging your shredder.

Now, the shredding capacity is determined using a certain weight of paper and given to you as a number of sheets. If you shred heavier paper, you may not be able to shred as many sheets as the capacity states.

If you are ever in doubt, it is a good idea to start with a few pages, up to half the capacity of the shredder, and notice how the paper shreds. This should help you to determine whether or not you can run the full capacity of sheets through the shredder at once.

If ever you feel that the shredder is not coping with the amount of paper, stop and try fewer sheets.

Remove The Paper Clips And Staples

Most heavy-duty paper shredders can cut through paper clips and staples, but that does not mean that you should.

Metal is going to dull the blades quicker than paper will, so there is a benefit to removing staples and paperclips before you shred paper.

The extra pieces of metal can also take your stack above the maximum capacity of the shredder.

You should also think about recycling. If the shredded paper is to be recycled, there should be no pieces of metal mixed in. Separate the two materials and dispose of them separately.

Be Careful When Shredding Plastic

Most shredders can cut through plastic, but you should be careful when you are shredding a lot of plastic.

Being able to shred credit cards is a good thing, but you should not be too hasty when shredding papers covered in plastic sleeves or shredding plastic when the shredder has been running for a long time.

The more you use your shredder, the hotter the blades will become.

If you shred plastic when the blades are hot, it can melt the plastic, and the plastic can stick to the blades.

If you are shredding plastic, try to shred as little as possible, or feed the sheets of plastic through your shredder between sheets of paper to protect the blades.

Don’t Fill The Shredder Container To Maximum

Shredders come with a capacity, and you should empty the container before you get to maximum capacity. In some high-end shredders, a light will indicate when the shredding basket is full, or you might be able to see inside the container, but we recommend emptying the basket before that.

If the container is too full, shreds of paper (and plastic or metal) can be forced back up into the blades and cause a jam. This can place a lot of strain on the motor and weaken the shredding gears.

Allow Cool-Down Time

Heavy-duty shredders can be run continuously, but the blades and motor will start to warm up, and continual shredding can take its toll. Letting the shredder cool down every so often will only prolong the life of the shredder.

Unplug When Not In Use

As with most modern devices, your shredder will use power when it is plugged in, even if it is not in use. This will use electricity (albeit a small amount), and that will only increase your utility bill unnecessarily.

Some shredders also have automatic modes, where the motor is kept running, or warmed up, ready to go. The more you use the motor, the faster it is going to wear out.

When your shredder is not in use, always unplug it, especially if it will be left idle for long periods.

Run The Blades in Reverse

If you have been using your shredder for a while, you should run the blades in reverse.

Before you do, check the shredding basket and empty it, if needed. By running the blades in reverse (back-flushing), you will remove more shredded debris from the blades, lessening the chance of jams, and improving the shredding power.

After running the blades in reverse, you should take the time to oil them.

How To Lubricate Your Shredder?

Oiling your shredder is easy, quick, and will prevent more significant problems from developing. Well-oiled blades move easier, cut through paper quicker, and will last longer.

There are three main ways to oil your shredder.

Direct Lubrication

Direct lubrication is pretty much what it says; you apply lubrication directly to the blades. When choosing your lubricant, a high-quality lubricant is always recommended, but the application method should also be looked at. A bottle with a narrow spout will allow you to better direct the oil. Here is how to do it:

  1. Ready your bottle.
  2. Activate the reverse function of your shredder.
  3. Let the blades spin in reverse for 10 seconds.
  4. Switch off the shredder.
  5. Pour the oil directly onto the blades from one side to the other.
  6. Turn on the shredder and let the blades spin for 30 seconds.
  7. You are done!

Indirect Lubrication

Instead of applying the oil directly to the blades, you are going to apply the oil to some paper, and then shred that paper. The oil on the paper will transfer to the blades as the paper runs through. Here are the steps:

  1. Grab two sheets of A4 paper.
  2. Apply a layer of oil to one sheet of paper in an ‘x’ shape. Draw a line of oil from one corner to the corner diagonally opposite, and cross that line with another line between the other two corners.
  3. Add a generous amount, but do not completely soak the paper.
  4. Allow the oil to soak into the paper.
  5. Take the second sheet of paper and place it on top of the first.
  6. Turn on the reverse function and let the blades run for 10 seconds.
  7. Run the shredder normally and feed the paper into the shredder.
  8. After, run the reverse function again for 30 seconds.
  9. You have oiled your shredder!

Lubricant Sheets

The third method of oiling your shredder involves you purchasing oiled sheets (lubricated sheets) instead of purchasing oil/lubricant. It is similar to method two, with less preparation needed. Let’s take a look:

  1. Take one oiled sheet from the pack.
  2. Run your shredder blades in reverse for 10 seconds.
  3. Run the shredder normally and shred the oiled sheet.
  4. Run the shredder in reverse again, this time for 30 seconds.
  5. And you are done!
Amazon Basics Micro Cut Paper Shredder Sharpening & Lubricant Sheets, Pack of 12, White
  • 12-pack of lubricant sheets sharpen, clean, and lubricate shredder blades
  • Helps prevent paper jams; reduces static dust and buildup for optimized efficiency
  • Easy to use—just like shredding a regular piece of paper; no messy oil needed

Here’s a great video that highlights all three methods.

What Oil To Use?

Stay away from petroleum-based oils, mainly aerosol oils. These oils can be a fire hazard, and you do not want that around hot blades.

Vegetable-based oils are recommended for most types of shredders, though you may want to invest in high-security shredder oil for large-capacity shredders, or those with auto-oil features.

Fellowes Powershred Performance Shredder Oil, 12 oz. Extended Nozzle Bottle (35250)
  • Lubricant keeps your shredder running at peak performance by conditioning the cutters and extending the life of your shredder
  • For best results, oil shredder each time you empty the wastebasket or a minimum of twice a month
  • Industrial-grade Lubricant

How Often Should You Oil?

If your shredder is having difficulty shredding or is becoming jammed more often than normal, then it is time to oil your shredder.

If your shredder is functioning normally, it will depend on how frequently you use the shredder. If you do not use your shredder a lot, then oiling it every two months will suffice. If you use the shredder a lot, then oil it every time you empty the waste basket, if you can.

Wrapping Up

Maintaining your shredder is easy. If you take a few seconds every time you use it, and a minute every so often to oil it, it is going to last longer and cause you fewer problems.

Prevention is the best cure, and that means using your shredder as per the manual. Try to limit the amount of plastic and metal that you shred, unplug it when not in use, run the blades in reverse every so often, and oil the blades.

Andrea Soke

Andrea has a background in economics and finance, but she's also passionate about gardening, sustainable living, and finding new ways to maintain a clean and orderly home. She believes in quality over quantity.

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