Will putting cloth through a paper shredder kill the shredder?
November 29, 2009 8:31 AM   Subscribe

I have old clothes, I have a paper shredder (confetti style), can the two come together and make stuffing for pillows?

I'm poorer than dirt, and I need things that I can't afford -- like pillows. I have access to a paper shredder, and I have old clothes that just don't fit or are unfit to wear. The paper shredder is not mine (it's a relative's) so I don't want to break it, which is why I'm asking before trying.

The clothes have been sitting in my trunk for about four months now, just waiting for me to take them to the Salvation Army. I read on their local website that they actually have more clothes right now than they know what to do with, hence the wait. Then it hit me that old clothes = cloth! and an idea was born.

So I wonder if it would be okay to run things like cotton t-shirts or denim through the paper shredder to make stuffing for pillows. I tried looking this up on Google and other search engines and only found similar (and unanswered) questions.

Does anyone see anything wrong with this idea? Will putting cloth through a paper shredder gum up the works? or can it be done if I keep an eye on the fuzz that's likely to result?
posted by patheral to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
The cloth will catch on the shredding apparatus. You don't want to do this. Much better solution is to simply cut the cloth with scissors or if rippable, rip it.
posted by watercarrier at 8:36 AM on November 29, 2009

I don't think it's a good idea — things used to cut paper and things used to cut fabric shouldn't be mixed: "What are the different types of scissors?" mentions this. Namely: Fabric scissors are extremely sharp and should not be used for anything but cutting cloth, since cutting paper will quickly dull a pair of scissors. So a paper shredder's blades probably wouldn't be sharp enough, nor may the shredder be big enough to accomodate fabric, which is thicker than paper.

However! There's an easy way to shred fabric, and it can be fun too. Snip an edge of your t-shirt/whatever, then RIP! :) I get a visceral satisfaction from this sort of shredding. Then, yes, you can absolutely use the shredded-up clothes as stuffing!
posted by fraula at 8:37 AM on November 29, 2009

Yeah, cloth is a lot stronger than paper. Not a good idea.
Also, cloth is not particularly springy. I suspect it would make very lumpy pillows. Cotton batting/pillow forms are not horribly expensive---or you could troll thrift stores for cushions and tear them open.
posted by stray at 8:39 AM on November 29, 2009

Stray... yeah, I know that cloth isn't very springy which is why I thought to shred it into teeny tiny pieces - then there would be air in there - like down, maybe? A good fluff and the the pillow would be good to go. Well, that was my thought process anyway. I guess I'll think of something else.

Thanks for the advice y'all!
posted by patheral at 8:57 AM on November 29, 2009

Yikes, don't put *any* non-paper items through a paper shredder!!! But you do have a good idea re: making your own stuffing. It's what people used to do. My Grandmother Swan used to cut up old stockings and woolies for stuffing. The resulting pillow will be heavy, and rather solid, but if your alternative is some completely collapsed or musty old pillow or nothing, it's an improvement.

As a slightly more expensive alternative, I'd go with stray's suggestion to buy old thrift shop pillows and salvage their stuffing.

As a way to cut pillow buying costs, I buy cheapo firm pillows (the ones in a blue-striped ticking) for about $6, and then put a more expensive soft, cushy pillow on top. The cheap ones last for years and I only have replace the top one.
posted by orange swan at 9:05 AM on November 29, 2009

If you put cloth through a paper shredder, it will tangle around the teeth and burn out the motor - so don't! I recommend ripping the clothes up by hand - it is very cathartic.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:11 AM on November 29, 2009

Does anyone you know have an excitable puppy that you can leave alone with the clothes for a while?

Seriously though, I have heard of plastic bags being scrunched up into a wad being used as a pillow. It would probably be a bit rustle-y, but you could probably dampen that by layering the bags with material. Sort of like pillows within a pillow.
posted by Solomon at 9:15 AM on November 29, 2009

Okay, so I've nixed that idea about the paper shredder and brought out the pinking shears (my late grandmother left me a nice assortment of cloth scissors). It'll take some time and my hands won't thanks me, but I'll have a pillow soon enough. :)

I hadn't thought of putting plastic bags inside, that's an interesting idea. I'm currently braiding a rug out of plastic bags so I have a ton of them. They're free you know. I'll see what I can do by mixing the two materials...

The reason I don't go to the thrift store is basically the reason I don't go to Walmart. Thrift store pillows cost about three dollars and they stink. Walmart pillows cost five dollars and they don't stink. But I don't have either three or five dollars right now to spend on things like pillows (food first) so if I can do something for free...

Thanks for the help. Now I know what not to do. :)
posted by patheral at 9:15 AM on December 2, 2009

I've tried plastic bags before - I don't recommend it, because it's really annoying to hear your pillow "crinkle" in the middle of the night. But if that doesn't bother you, it's not a bad solution.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 6:51 PM on December 2, 2009

I figure if I cut the plastic in to tiny bits like I'm doing the cloth, it won't crinkle as much... But I'll keep that in mind. :)
posted by patheral at 11:45 PM on December 3, 2009

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