How to Clear a Clogged Paper Shredder

By Kathryn Hatashita-Lee

Always unplug the shredder before removing clogged paper.
i Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Paper shredders help reduce unwanted papers and protect you from identity theft. A clogged paper shredder can interrupt your work routine and disturb your colleagues with a grinding sound. Small shredders can clog more often than the larger, heavy duty models. Before attempting to clear the cutters, always remember to disconnect the plug from the electrical outlet. Proper lubrication helps ensure your machine runs smoothly for that next shredding job.

Turn on the paper shredder. Turn on the reverse switch, if applicable. Reversing the cutters can sometimes dislodge the paper and bring pieces up through the top.

Turn off the paper shredder. Unplug the shredder. Disconnecting the shredder will ensure the cutters do not accidentally cut your fingers or damage your tools.

Lift up the lid and shake gently to dislodge loose paper pieces. Place the lid upside down on a flat surface.

Apply a pair of tweezers or needle-nose pliers to pull any paper pieces jammed between the blades on the underside of the lid.

Shake the lid to let the paper pieces drop away.

Insert the lid on the shredder in the correct position.

Plug in the shredder. Turn on the shredder. Test with paper sheets. Listen and observe to see if the cutters are running smoothly.

Items you will need

  • Tweezers or needle-nose pliers

  • Can of compressed air, optional

  • Shredder oil or lubricated sheets designed for shredders


A blast of compressed air to the cutters can finish the cleanup. Maintain the shredder to prevent or reduce clogs. Drops of specifically designed shredder oil lubricate the blades for a smoother operation. Sheets embedded with shredder oil can also pass through the cutters. Check with your shredder’s operating manual for the recommended maintenance for this model.


Always unplug the shredder before unclogging or between shredding.