How To Fix Paper Shredder That Is Not Working? – Troubleshooting Guide

The most convenient and effective way to dispose of confidential documents is with a paper shredder. Aside from securing sensitive information, paper shredders also decrease the volume of paper waste, allowing you to get rid of trash more efficiently.  But what if your paper shredder stops working?

You can fix a shredder that isn’t working by checking it for issues, running it in reverse mode, or inserting a filing folder. Allowing the paper shredder to cool down, unplugging it, and manually removing the blockage also works. You might also need to lubricate the shredder. 

You may encounter issues with your paper shredder, such as paper jams, peculiar noises while shredding, the paper not going through, or your shredder failing to turn on.  This article will cover eight simple steps to deal with the most common paper shredder problems.

Check the Shredder for Any Issues 

When a paper shredder stops working, it’s tempting to immediately open the top cover and check the blades and shafts for anything out of the ordinary. Similar to when a car stalls, we tend to look under the hood and then scratch our heads, wondering what to do next. Sometimes, however, the cause of the problem is hiding in plain sight.  

Power Cable

If the paper shredder fails to turn on or stops shredding in the middle of a session, the problem might be as simple as the machine not being correctly plugged in. Check the power cable if it’s securely plugged into the power outlet. You can also try plugging it into an alternate power source or another appliance into the power outlet to see if it’s working.

Also, check if the power cable is correctly plugged into the shredder. This may seem like an obvious fix, but it beats trying several troubleshooting steps only to find that the issue could have been fixed in a matter of seconds.

Read: How To Reset A Paper Shredder?

Cutting Head and Waste Basket

As a safety feature, some shredders will not work if the cutting head or wastebasket isn’t properly positioned. The cutting head is what pulls the paper into the machine for shredding to commence, while the waste basket is where the shredded materials end up.  

With the paper shredder unplugged, ensure that the cutting head is placed securely on the rim of the waste basket. Some models have a built-in interlock mechanism that will only work with the waste basket that came with the shredder. There will also be an activation switch that will cut the power off if it detects the head is lifted or not in place.  

Only use the designated wastebasket and do not line it with a plastic bag because that may cause interference. Connecting the head to the waste basket should require little guesswork since most have matching ridges.  

Be cautious when mounting the shredder onto the wastebasket since some may have exposed blades.  

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You should also empty the wastebasket regularly. If the bin becomes too full, the paper may not be able to flow through the shredder efficiently, making paper jams more likely to occur. Some machines will also stop working when the shredder bin is full.   

Read: Why Do Paper Shredders Make Noise And Won’t Feed Paper? – Troubleshooting Guide

Run the Shredder in Reverse Mode

If your paper shredder is powering up but still encountering problems with shredding, you may have a paper jam. Paper jams are not uncommon, and they may still happen if your shredder is labeled “Jam Free.” Jam-free shredders merely have sensors that will shut the shredder down if it detects that the load exceeds what it’s capable of shredding.

Your shredder may have any of the following symptoms if there is a paper jam:

  • The shredder has difficulty pulling in the paper.
  • The paper leaves the shredder not thoroughly shredded.
  • The shredder stops working while shredding.
  • The shredder makes more noise than usual.

If your shredder has a paper jam, try to remove the blockage by putting your shredder in REVERSE mode. The reverse function primarily addresses paper jams by forcing the paper back out.  

Allow the shredder to operate in reverse mode for a few seconds to dislodge any materials causing the blockage. You can gently pull the uncut paper to assist as the machine pushes the paper back out.  

It also helps to toggle between the reverse and forward mode to free up the jammed paper, and you should alternate between the two functions for about three seconds each way.

Read: How To Use A Paper Shredder?

Insert a Filing Folder Into the Shredder

If you can pull out the uncut paper during STEP 2, but the shredder still shows symptoms of a paper jam, insert a filing folder or any stiff piece of cardstock into the shredder. The stiffness of the folder can help dislodge any paper causing the jam.

Place the filing folder in the center of the paper feeder and then run the machine in forwarding mode. Apply pressure to push the folder through the slot while the shredder runs.

Allow the Paper Shredder To Cool Down

Even without a paper jam, your paper shredder may stop working in the middle of a shredding session. When this happens, your machine may have stopped because it has become too hot.

You should check the owner’s manual for your shredder’s maximum run time. Aside from using the shredder for extended periods, overloading the paper feeder can cause it to overheat.

If you still encounter issues after performing STEPS 1 to 3, allow your paper shredder to cool down, and leave it for at least 30 minutes before turning it on again.  

Unplug the Paper Shredder

There are instances when you will have to inspect the internal parts of the shredder and manually unclog a paper jam. Before attempting to work on your shredder, turn it off and unplug it from the power outlet.

It’s a common practice to unplug electronic devices before tinkering with them to prevent electrocution, but you need to be extra careful with shredders. Shredders have teeth and sharp blades, and the last thing you want is for the shredder to activate unexpectedly while you have your fingers or any instrument near it.  

Read: How Long Can You Run A Paper Shredder?

Manually Remove the Blockage

After unplugging your shredder, detach the shredder section from the wastebin and the entire machine. You should refer to your owner’s manual to check how to do this for your specific model. Always be cautious of exposed blades that can cause injury.

Once you have access to the shredder’s blades, inspect them from the top and the bottom for blockages. Always use tools when trying to unclog a shredder, and never allow your fingers to touch the blades, otherwise, you risk cutting yourself. 

Use needle-nose pliers or tweezers to remove loose bits of paper or materials that are hard to reach. You may have to use a knife or scissors to cut some shreds that get tangled around the blades or the cylindrical rollers of the shredder.

If you see more rigid material like plastic or cardboard stuck in the shredder blades, use a flat screwdriver to dislodge them. Just be careful not to apply too much force that you damage the blades or other shredder components. 

Lubricate the Paper Shredder With Shredder Oil

For stubborn clogs, you can lubricate the paper shredder with oil. The oil can soften the paper and make it easier to remove from the blades.  

Some lubricants are designed specifically for shredders, but you can also use cooking oil.  Never use spray can oils, penetrating fluid, or other lubricants. The Bonsaii Paper Shredder Lubricant Oil (available on works on all shredders and comes with an oblique nozzle, making it easy to apply on shredder blades and paper.  

To remove a clog using shredder oil, follow these instructions:

  1. Turn the paper shredder off.
  2. Apply a few drops of oil to the blades with paper jammed.
  3. Let the jammed paper soak for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Turn the shredder on and shred a filing folder to push the jammed paper through.

Aside from dealing with paper jams, you should lubricate your shredder at least once a month to keep it in good running condition. A noisy paper shredder also indicates that it needs to be lubricated.

If you’re lubricating your shredder as part of routine maintenance, follow these instructions:

  1. Soak a sheet of paper with oil or use a shredder lubricant sheet.
  2. Run it through the shredder. 
  3. Follow up by shredding a dry sheet of paper.
  4. Test the Paper Shredder

After removing the paper jam, your shredder should work as well as new. Test the paper shredder by shredding a new batch of documents.  

If you still encounter issues, there may be a problem with the shredder motor, or you may have stripped gears or a defect with the cutting mechanism. In this case, you should call your shredder’s customer service department for assistance.

Read: Jammed Paper Shredder Won’t Feed Paper. How To Fix It? 

Final Thoughts

Paper shredders can save you time and effort in discarding documents and shreddable items that contain sensitive information. You may encounter problems with your shredder once in a while, but the fix is usually quite simple.

Below are some helpful reminders that can help you avoid problems with your shredder:

  • Avoid overfeeding your shredder.
  • Only shred items that are deemed acceptable by the manufacturer.
  • Avoid feeding the shredder with creased or folded paper.
  • Lubricate the shredder periodically.
  • Spread your shredding sessions to prevent overheating.

Taking proper care of your shredder should let you enjoy many years of trouble-free service. Protection Status