Last updated on June 4th, 2021
No matter where you work, there are bound to be times when you need to dispose of documents securely. Usually, the cheapest, easiest, and most secure way to do this is by using a paper shredder. Unfortunately, these shredders are prone to suffering from a paper jam from time to time.
It is a very common problem faced in an office and the most irritating one. Especially if you have a large volume of documents to shred, and trying to fix a jam can be very time-consuming. Depending on the make and model of the shredder, this problem can present itself in different ways.
But while there are some signs to look out for when your paper shredder experiences a jam (more on those later), some higher-end shredders have a light indicator that lets you know when it is jammed, or if a jam is approaching due to the maximum load being exceeded.
While this problem can be extremely stressful, there is no need to panic as paper jams are usually easily fixed. Hopefully, our tips below will be a great help the next time your shredder runs into a jam, and what to do to prevent paper jams from happening in the future.
Firstly, let’s take a look at what the main causes of a paper jam tend to be:
- Putting in too many sheets of paper
- Shredding the wrong materials
- Not oiling (lubricating) your shredder.
Now, let’s look at how your paper shredder will make it known to you that paper is jammed:
- It won’t fully shred the paper.
- It gets stuck in the reverse function.
- It makes strange grinding or high-pitched noises.
- It won’t pull paper in or it will only pull it on one side.
- It stops working in the middle of shredding.
- Blinking indicators will inform you of a paper jam.
What to do next:
- Unplug the shredder: This is a crucial first step when attempting to fix a paper jam, mainly for your safety. Once you start to investigate the cause the machine could start working again, which could potentially cause a serious accident.
- Empty the wastebasket: A common and simple cause of a jammed shredder is that the wastepaper basket is full. Empty the wastebasket, reconnect the shredder to the mains, and check if this has resolved the problem.
- Switch to reverse: If you still experience problems then try running the shredder in reverse. Most shredders have a function that lets you do this, and it may push through some blockage. This can be risky though, as it may lead to the paper jam worsening.
- If the shredder jams in reverse switch back to auto/forward: If switching it to reverse has caused more problems and it’s jammed in both directions, alternate between working it backward and forwards as this can eventually shift the jam.
- Reduce the amount of paper before re-shredding: Always make sure to not feed the shredder more paper than it can candle. Too much paper can cause it to get jammed in the blades.
What if my paper shredder cannot fix itself?
If you still experience problems after trying the above tips, you will need to unjam the shredder manually. First, unplug your shredder then remove the top shredding section. Use a pair of tweezers to remove all the jammed strands of paper from the blades, and use a pair of scissors to cut all the curly pieces of paper.
If plastic is the cause of the jam, you can use a screwdriver to clear the blockage. Then, use shredder oil to lubricate the blades and set the shredder in reverse. Then check if the jam is cleared by feeding through a single sheet of paper.
In some cases, you can gently run a vacuum cleaner parallel to the edges – as close as you can without touching them – to suck out paper dust and particles. This may be the likely cause of the jam.
Lubricating a shredder:
This is a handy way of preventing jams and letting the paper run smoothly through the shredder.
First, turn the shredder on and feed a shredder oil sheet through it. Wait for the entire oiled sheet to shred and then feed through a couple of sheets of plain paper – this will absorb the excess oil.
Then turn off the shredder and by hand apply the lubricating oil to the top of the blades. Then, switch the shredder on in reverse to make sure the oil is evenly distributed and then feed through a couple more sheets to absorb the excess oil.
What can I feed into a shredder?
- Greeting cards
- Thin cardboard
What can’t I feed into a shredder?
- Credit cards
- Laminated card
- Folded sheets of paper
What else can I do to prevent a paper jam?
One cause of a paper jam is paper being fed too quickly into the shredder. Make sure that before you shred another batch that the machine has completely shredded the batch before. Also, avoid crumpling up, creasing, or folding the paper before you shred it, as smooth sheets are kinder to shredders.
It is important to know what material your shredder can handle, and how much paper it can handle. Definitely try to avoid the items listed in our ‘What can’t I feed into a shredder?’ list above, and don’t shred staples or paper clips unless you know your shredder can handle it. Also, don’t overfeed or overtax your shredder, and try to remain below your shredder’s capacity, i.e. ‘max. number of sheets.’
It is also worth lubricating the cutting blades of your shredder every time you empty the paper bin or shredder bag. Also, remember to empty your wastebasket regularly. Another more costly option is to invest in a paper shredder that has jam-proof technology. These shredders are equipped with sensors that stop the machine when overtaxed.
We hope that all these tips will come in handy next time your shredder experiences a jam.