We've long recommended that you shred important documents before you dispose of them, especially if they contain vital personal information that identity thieves can use. And unless you want to spend the time dealing with the documents by hand or pay a company to do it for you, the most effective tool is a cross-cut shredder, which slices papers horizontally and vertically and turns your documents into small bits and pieces that are much more difficult to patch back together than the long, thin strips other shredders produce.
We tested 19 crosscut shredders in two types. With a pullout console model, you empty the device pulling out a drawer that collects the shreds; with a wastepaper-basket shredder, you to lift the shredder mechanism off of a basket that holds the shreds.
Our testers fed the shredders about 25,000 sheets of paper left over from a printer test. Half the paper was 20-pound stock, and the rest was thinner paper printed with color photographs. All the shredders met the manufacturer's claims about how many sheets you can feed at one time, and they all successfully handled credit cards. The shredders designed to deal with CDs, DVDs, paper clips, and staples capably shredded those items, too.
The four recommended models (one each from Black & Decker and GoEcoLife, and two from Staples) proved to be easy to operate, shredded paper faster than the others, had fewer paper jams, and required less frequent emptying. They were also among the most expensive units we tested, costing $150 to $270.