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Keeping Your Paper Shredder Running Smoothly

In these challenging economic times when identity theft has become increasingly commonplace, many people have learned that it pays to be more cautious in the disposition and disposal of any and all documents containing personal information. In today’s world of electronics and gadgets, simply tearing up a piece of paper no longer seems sufficient. This coming together of circumstances has created a large and every-growing market for home shredders. Like any other machine, a paper shredder has certain basic maintenance requirements. While simple, if not followed, the machine can suffer an early – and possibly expensive – demise.

There are two basic varieties of home shredders and it varies between the most expensive and the cheapest paper shredder. While manufactured by a plethora of office product firms, Fellowes, Dahle and GBC being several of the better known, they all have a few important characteristics in common. They work by simply cutting up whatever you put into them in pieces presumed to be small enough to discourage any attempt by evil-doers to reassemble the information for illicit purposes. Each machine shreds paper, multiple sheets of paper, media discs (CDs and DVDs) and Credit Cards. Which and how much of each will vary according to the power of the shredder.

Each shredder cuts things either into strips or some version of what we lay people would call confetti. Small squares or rectangles that further make any attempt at larceny motivated reassembly functionally impossible. Experts recommend using only confetti-type shredders and long strips are not much of a deterrent to a motivated and patient thief who has some modicum of talent with simple puzzles.

The mechanics of all the shredders are similar. Rotating, interactive, steel ‘teeth’ cut up whatever is few into them. Like all moving metal parts (think about your car engine, for a commonly recognized example) occasional lubrication is needed to keep things running smoothly. All shredder manufacturers sell ‘Lubricant’ with their own brand suggesting that there is something special about the proprietary connection between the lubricating substance and the machine. This is simply not so.

The best all-around lubricant for a home (or office) shredder is simply vegetable oil. In fact, on analysis, that is exactly what is contained in those high-priced proprietary lubricants! A few drops back and forth across the cutting edges every 50-100 uses will provide all the lubrication that is necessary to keep your shredder running smoothly.

Beyond this inexpensive but intermittently necessary lubrication, there are a few other things to be mindful of to get maximum satisfaction from your shredder. Each machine is ‘rated’ according to how many regular size pieces of paper it can shred in one pass. Exceeding this volume will quickly jam your shredder and cause it to come to a grinding (and often noisy) halt. The cure is to simply shut it off, then push Reverse (yes, they all have the capacity to be run in Reverse – precisely for this reason.) If you have really crammed a good deal too much material in, you may have to push the button back and for the between the Reverse and Forward positions several times to clear the grinding mechanism.

Some machines are designed to handle products other than paper. Cardboard, data discs and credit cards are commonly handled by stronger and more powerful shredders. If your machine does not state, explicitly, that it will handle and destroy anything except standard paper – it probably won’t and trying to use it in that way may cause a degree of damage that will cause the shredder to need to be replaced. No warranty will cover the use of the machine for something it was not designed to do.

That’s it. Keep your shredder lubricated (with vegetable oil) and use it only to the capacity and for the materials it is advertised as being able to handle. Following this simple use and maintenance plan, a well made shredder should operate reliably for many years. Like so many other things in life -If you value something, take good care of it and it will take good care of you.