poor man's paper shredder
September 7, 2009 5:25 PM   Subscribe

I need a poor man paper shredder alternative.

Supposing I'm too cheap to buy a paper shredder, what's my best alternative? If it helps, I have a grill in the backyard, but I don't want to burn sensitive documents using a fire starter solution that might fizzle out.
posted by Eiwalker to Technology (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Got cats? Line the litterbox with the documents.
posted by azpenguin at 5:27 PM on September 7, 2009

How about paper-shredder scissors for < $10, here's one example.
posted by zippy at 5:28 PM on September 7, 2009

This is pretty cheap. Kind of looks fun, too!
posted by yamel at 5:32 PM on September 7, 2009

How poor are you? Amazon has hand-cranked shredders from $3.99 and if you keep an eye on the bargain-hunting websites like dealspl.us or wireddeals.com you'll see shredders come up now and again at free-after-rebate prices.

I am too cheap to buy a shredder and use b1tr0t's method, right-handed.
posted by nowonmai at 5:47 PM on September 7, 2009

paper burns well when loosely wadded up. I have always been a big fan of the fire solution for it's cleansing properties. a little rubbing alchohol or lighter fluid will make sure it all burns. a little tap on the ashes and all is dust in the wind
posted by Redhush at 5:50 PM on September 7, 2009

Yeah, I can wander down the local supermarket and buy a hand-operated paper shredder for <AU$10, or an electric one (with its own paper bin!) for <AU$35.

For comparison, a tin of lighter fluid costs ~AU$8, and cat food costs ~AU$35 / 3kg bag.
posted by Pinback at 5:50 PM on September 7, 2009

Is your time worth anything? If it isn't, the best approach is almost certainly to just tear the paper into little pieces by hand. Then throw it in the air and yell 'Yippee!' Poor men like us have to be creative with our entertainment budgets.
posted by box at 5:57 PM on September 7, 2009

Water and a little soap will turn sensitive documents into a slurry in a few days - it's also more secure than a shredder in the long run, because a dedicated person can reassemble even crosscut documents, while a jar of goo is much harder to reconstitute. Also, previously.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:02 PM on September 7, 2009 [4 favorites]

I kept an eye on Craigslist and found a brand new one for about $10.
posted by emilyd22222 at 6:08 PM on September 7, 2009

If you've got the space and you live in the right municipality, you could hold on to everything and then participate in a public shredding day. Check your local BBB's website for information.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:41 PM on September 7, 2009

I bet it'd be fun to try to build one.
posted by box at 6:45 PM on September 7, 2009

Blenders work.
posted by flabdablet at 7:05 PM on September 7, 2009

I tried burning old checks on my grill. The paper turned black but it didn't burn into smoke so I had to figure out how to get from the grill to the trash without leaving a charcoal mess (and making sure the fire was cold so i didn't burn my trash.
posted by metahawk at 7:09 PM on September 7, 2009

1. Get a very large bucket
2. Fill the bucket 1/4 the way up with paper scraps.
3. Fill the the next 1/4 with water.
4. Attach a paint mixing attachment to a drill.
5. Use the drill to mix the paper and water.

This is what you do when you have too many papers and don't want to risk ruining your blender.
posted by soelo at 7:10 PM on September 7, 2009

If you have a clotheswasher, that'll ruin your documents pretty effectivley.

But really, you can get a shredder for <$100. At that price point, your other options are costing you more time, at minimum wage, than the technology would.
posted by musofire at 7:11 PM on September 7, 2009

Do you have access to one at work or at a friend's office? I save my stuff and take it to work every few weeks and shred it in their giant industrial shredder.
posted by Ochre,Hugh at 7:34 PM on September 7, 2009

Seconding sweetie darling's recommendation to save things up for a community shred day, if possible. Announcements will often be posted on craigslist, or your local paper/Creative Loafing/City Paper/etc. Usually it's for charity, and the recommended donation is $5 or 2 cans of food or something like that. Totally the way to go if you don't want to buy a shredder.
posted by somanyamys at 8:04 PM on September 7, 2009

Is this kid old enough to hire yet?
posted by clerestory at 8:17 PM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you live anywhere within 40 miles (3 gallons of gas roundtrip) north of Yonkers in NY, I will deliver and GIVE TO YOU for FREE a working shredder my great aunt thought was too dangerous and noisy to use. Only used once on three con ed bills by a 92 year old.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:08 PM on September 7, 2009

I just burned a foot-high stack of journals. You don't need lighter fluid. First, lightly crumple individual sheets to form a base. Light those and add more paper. As the fire builds, you can add 4-5 pages at a time, twisted together so they're long and not wide.

I got quite the conflagration going and everything burned thoroughly. I was using an outdoor fire ring made with concrete blocks, which probably gave me more working space than your grill.
posted by PatoPata at 9:32 PM on September 7, 2009

Consider scissors. Very capable when it comes to deconstructing paper.
posted by Muirwylde at 1:22 AM on September 8, 2009

posted by zia at 3:55 AM on September 8, 2009

Hamster shredder. (doesnt shred hamsters. Well ok, maybe if tried hard enough).
posted by daveyt at 5:01 AM on September 8, 2009

Start a compost pile, most paper and inks are completely safe for compost these days.
posted by trishthedish at 7:26 AM on September 8, 2009

We got rid of our shredder because I have one at work. Why take up the space? I have no idea if personal documents are not allowed, but how would you check? The box for papers to be shredded is secure by design, and stuff a lot more sensitive than my bank statement goes in there.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:13 AM on September 8, 2009

Rip. Distribute pieces between different rubbish sacks. (An important step even if you have a shredder.)
posted by Idcoytco at 10:16 AM on September 8, 2009

You should check your yellow pages to see if there's a shredding company in town that takes walk-in customers. Look for smaller, locally owned businesses as large companies like Iron Mountain may not do small volume walk-in shredding. You might also want to look for companies that do storage or some vague term like "document management/solutions/etc." and see if they have a shredder.

I work for such a company, and we'll shred pretty much anything for $3/box. You don't even have to take out the staples or binder clips. So much cheaper and easier than buying a shredder yourself. Plus it's fun to watch.
posted by lilac girl at 12:06 PM on September 8, 2009

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