Fire Safety And Paper Shredding Do’s And Don’ts

Paper shredders have become a necessity for securely disposing of sensitive documents and preventing identity theft.

However, shredders also pose potential fire hazards if used improperly or without adequate safety precautions. This article outlines key fire prevention guidelines and recommendations when using paper shredders in homes, offices and other environments.

Fire Safety And Paper Shredding

Preventing Shredder Fires: Key Tips

Follow these simple but vital tips to minimize fire risks when operating paper shredders:

  • Always unplug the shredder when not in use to avoid electrical faults sparking fires.
  • Don’t run shredders continuously for long periods which can lead to overheating. Allow cooling breaks.
  • Clean shredders regularly to avoid the buildup of flammable paper dust and debris.
  • Ensure sufficient air circulation around the shredder to prevent overheating.
  • Never use near water sources which creates electrocution hazards.
  • Don’t shred cardboard, laminates or other thick materials that can easily jam shredders.
  • Avoid touching hot shredder surfaces and look for signs of smoke/overheating.
  • Place away from flammable items like curtains which could ignite from heat.
  • Buy an auto shut-off shredder for added protection if it overheats or jams.

Materials To Avoid Shredding

Some paper items pose particularly high fire risks in shredders:

  • Cardstock, Cardboard and Laminates: Thick paper materials can jam blade cylinders and cause motors to overheat from the extra friction, Check for any upcoming shredding events near me to safely dispose of cardboard and other thick materials. Opt for hand-tearing cardboard instead of shredding it.
  • Coated and Glossy Paper: The polyester, plastic and metal used to give the coated paper its glossy sheen can melt from shredder heat and get stuck in the blades, increasing fire risks.
  • Newly Printed Paper: Ink and toner need time to properly set on fresh prints. The friction heat of shredding can smear wet ink causing residue buildup on shredder components.
  • Papers with Glitter or Adhesives: Glitter paper and self-adhesive notes contain plastics and glue that can melt, jam shredders and generate excess heat when shredded.
  • Anything Wet: Never attempt to shred damp or wet papers which greatly raises the chances of jamming and overheating shredders.

Avoid feeding these fire-hazard materials into shredders. Check paper contents before shredding if uncertain. Manual tearing is safer for items like cardboard.

Fire Safety And Paper Shredding Do’s And Don’ts

Here are some important do’s and don’ts around fire safety when paper shredding:


  • Ensure the shredder is away from flammable materials and has adequate space for ventilation.
  • Follow the plant instructions for safe process and supervision. Clean regularly to prevent paper dust buildup.
  • Use a shredder with an automatic shut-off feature in case of overheating or jamming.
  • Unplug the shredder when not in use for an extended period to reduce fire risks.
  • Discard shredded waste frequently and store it away from heat sources. Don’t let large amounts accumulate.


  • Operate the shredder for longer than the recommended maximum runtime before allowing it to cool.
  • Use a shredder near water sources or damp environments which increase electric shock risks.
  • Ignore signs of overheating, smoke or strange odours that signal a potential fire hazard.
  • Force too much paper into the shredder at once to avoid jamming and motor overheating.
  • Run the machine unattended or continue use if there are signs of damage or malfunction.
  • Place the shredder in poorly ventilated confined areas like closets which trap heat

Shredder Use and Placement Tips

Proper use and positioning also prevent shredder fires:

  • Place shredders in well-ventilated spots and avoid confined areas like closets where heat can be trapped.
  • Don’t overload shredders beyond sheet capacity which jams blades and causes friction. Do small loads.
  • Let shredders rest for 15 minutes after long periods of use to allow heat dissipation and prevent motor overheating.
  • Don’t leave shredders unattended for extended periods while powered on.
  • Position away from flammable items like curtains that could ignite from excess heat.
  • Avoid using near sinks or pipes to prevent water spills and electric shock risks.
  • Ensure open space behind for shredder ventilation and locate away from walls.
  • Buy an auto shut-off shredder for fire protection if the motor overheats or jams.

What To Do If A Shredder Fire Starts

If a fire does start in the shredder or shredded paper, follow these emergency steps:

  • Immediately hit the power button to shut off the shredder if it’s the source of flames.
  • Unplug the shredder to cut power and prevent re-ignition. Don’t touch if surfaces are hot.
  • Use a fire extinguisher to put out the fire if safe to do so. Never use water on an electrical fire.
  • Evacuate the area and activate the nearest fire alarm. Call emergency responders if needed.
  • If the fire grows too large for an extinguisher, evacuate the building and let professional firefighters handle it.
  • If paper waste outside the shredder ignites, follow the same power cut, extinguisher and evacuation steps.
  • Report any shredder-related fires to staff safety personnel to prevent future occurrences.

Safe Paper Shredder And Waste Storage

Storing paper shredders correctly also minimises fire hazards:

  • Let shredders fully cool before storage after use. Don’t put hot shredders into closets.
  • Store in dry locations away from heat and ignition sources or flammable materials.
  • Regularly clean out shredders prior to storage to avoid the buildup of flammable paper dust.
  • Keep vents and cooling fans free of obstruction and dust.
  • Discard shredded paper waste regularly in fireproof containers. Don’t let large amounts accumulate, Free Paper Shredding Events Cincinnati 2023 provides free on-site paper shredding services periodically throughout the year.
  • Place shredded paper containers away from heat sources like radiators or ovens.

With proper operating guidelines, material avoidance, and storage precautions, paper shredders can be used safely with minimal fire risks. Being prepared to act quickly in an emergency is also key to preventing shredder-related blazes from becoming unmanageable.

What Materials Should Be Avoided In Shredders Due To Fire Risks From Jams/Overheating?

Thick paper items like cardboard, laminates, glossy/coated paper, adhesive notes, glitter paper and wet items can jam shredders and increase fire hazards.

What Emergency Steps Should Be Taken If A Shredder Or Shredded Paper Ignites Into Flames?

Immediately cut power to the shredder, use a fire extinguisher if safe, activate the fire alarm, evacuate the area, and call emergency responders if needed.

How Should Paper Shredders Be Operated And Positioned To Minimise Potential Overheating Hazards?

Allow cooling breaks between use, avoid confined spaces, prevent material overload, keep flammables away, and maintain 15-minute rest periods to dissipate heat.

Why Is It Risky To Store Paper Shredders While Still Hot Or With Uncleaned Shredded Waste Buildup?

Storing hot shredders or with paper dust accumulation raises chances of ignition from residual heat or flammable debris contact.

What Fire Prevention Features Should You Look For When Purchasing A New Paper Shredder?

Seeking shredders with auto shut-off when overloaded/overheated and fire retardant materials reduce fire risks.


Paper shredders can pose fire risks if used improperly, so following basic electrical safety, avoiding hazardous materials, and implementing emergency plans are essential.

Storing shredders correctly and keeping work areas around them free of ignition sources also prevents fires. With sensible precautions, paper shredding activities can be accomplished safely.