Have trouble with your paper shredder getting clogged? Here's our tips for addressing the problem.

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Your paper shredder is an essential device for the home office. This valuable security tool keeps your information secure by giving you a convenient way to dispose of it. So, when your shredder stops unexpectedly, it’s important to know how to fix the issue.

Even the best quality shredders are prone to getting clogged every once in a while. Paper can get stuck inside, and the “reverse” button isn’t always enough to solve it. There are a few different methods you can use to get the machine back in business.

Just keep in mind that you should never force your shredder to keep working when it’s jammed. Trying to continue running the machine, or force paper inside, might strip the belt or break the gears.

Remember Your Safety

When you’re dealing with a paper shredder, remember that it has blades and it’s important to be safe. Don’t put your fingers or hands anywhere near the blades.

Why do Paper Shredders Get Clogged?

There are a few different reasons that this may occur, which I’ll list below with solutions for each:

It Needs Oil

Paper shredders need oil every so often, especially if it’s a cross-cut model. If the machine is seizing up or running slow, it may just need some lubrication. For optimal results, you should oil your shredder every time you change the bag or bin.

Depending on the model you’re using, it may come with a reminder light that lets you know it needs oil.

The Solution

The solution for a lack of oil in your paper shredder is pretty self-explanatory; just add paper shredder oil (Fellowes Powershred Performance Shredder Oil, 12 oz. Extended Nozzle Bottle (35250) ). Make sure you’re actually using shredder oil and not some other type of oil (which can ruin the machine). If it’s your first time oiling your shredder, squirt the oil onto the blades directly.

Alternatively, you can squirt some of the oil across the width of a sheet of paper, then shred it. If the machine has a reverse switch on it, activate it after you’ve oiled the blades.  Pre-lubricated sheets are also available. Especially if you use the shredder infrequently, lubricating sheets like the Amazon Basics Micro Cut Paper Shredder Sharpening & Lubricant Sheets, Pack of 24, White are a convenient option.

Using Too Much Paper

Using too much paper at once can jam your paper shredder, so make sure you pay attention to the maximum sheets recommended by the manufacturer. In fact, it’s better if you use even less than the recommended maximum.

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Many paper shredders come with a capacity indicator that will show you whether the motor is working too hard. Rather than beginning with a big stack, start with a small amount of paper and slowly add more.

If you find yourself shredding a lot of paper, a heavy-duty paper shredder might be a good option.

The Solution

The first thing you should do if your shredder is clogged due to too much paper is to use the reverse button (if it has one). If the machine is either too clogged or doesn’t come with a reverse button, there’s another solution. Use shredder oil to unclog it by squirting some along the opening on the shredder.

Wait 15 minutes for the oil to soften up the paper, which will allow it to pass through easier. If this doesn’t clear it out, take the shredder head off of the machine after unplugging it, then pull the paper out manually.

Shredding Something Other than Paper

Many new paper shredder models can handle DVDs or credit cards, but this isn’t the case for every type. If you have a cross-cut shredder, odds are it will get clogged if you try to shred laminated or plastic materials.

So, before you try to shred your old ID badge from work, look at the manufacturer’s manual to see if the shredder can handle items other than paper. Also, check your sheets of paper for paper clips or staples before you shred them. Even if your shredder can handle these items, it can cause it to wear out faster or cause jams.

The Solution

If your shredder is clogged because you shredded items other than paper, first unplug the machine. Most of the time, you can remove plastic materials like CDs or credit cards with a pair of needle nose pliers. See if you can pull the material out from the top, which should be easy.

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

If the plastic won’t come out, try taking off the shredder head and removing it from below.

Paper Jams vs. Overheating

If your paper shredder stopped shredding, it might be due to overheating instead of a paper jam. Most of these machines have a limit to how long they can run at a time to protect the motor from overheating. If you use your shredder for a long period of time, it might shut itself off in order to cool down.

The amount of time needed before a cool-down period will differ depending on the machine. Consult your user manual to find out the maximum runtime for your paper shredder. If you have an industrial or heavy-duty paper shredder, it might not have a runtime limit on it.

Before assuming that your shredder stopped working because it’s jammed, give it a 30-minute rest and see if it comes back on. If it doesn’t start back up after this period of time, the bin may be full or it might be clogged.

In some cases, none of these steps will fix it, in which case you’ll need to speak with a technician or the machine manufacturer.

How to Avoid Paper Jams

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Properly maintaining your shredder will help you avoid future paper jams. Always check the owner’s manual for your specific model when you encounter any issues. In addition to keeping the blades oiled, here are some steps to prevent future paper jams:

Get a jam-proof machine: One simple way to avoid paper from getting stuck in your shredder is to buy a device with jam-proof technology. This type of shredder will come with a sensor that turns the machine off when it’s overcapacity.

Empty the bin before it’s full: Instead of waiting until the bag or bin is full on your shredder, empty it early. This will help to prevent it from getting clogged.

Use the right paper: Consult the user manual to find out what type of paper the device can handle. Always insert paper without any folds or creases in it for the best results. Also, make sure you don’t feed anything other than paper into the machine.


Follow the tips in this article and you’ll help your paper shredder function its best. Happy shredding!

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