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How to dispose of important papers without a shredder

Updated November 21, 2016

Without a shredder, your private personal and business documents may stack up, leaving piles of paper containing sensitive and confidential information laying around. Throwing these documents in the trash or recycling bin is not an option, but you can still destroy these documents even if you don't own your own shredder. You can destroy these papers yourself or pay a local business to take care of them for you. If you want to destroy your own personal documents, you have numerous easy and cost-effective alternatives for ensuring your sensitive papers are securely destroyed.

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  1. Cut the documents with scissors if there is only a small amount of paper. Make sure to cut the paper into small pieces (no larger than 1 cm by 1 cm (1/2 inch by 1/2 inch)) and ensure important information such as account numbers, your National Insurance Number (Social Security Number) and other confidential information is cut into even smaller pieces. This method is very time-consuming, so it's not efficient if you need to destroy more than 15 to 20 pages.

  2. Burn the documents in an open area outdoors, away from any buildings and trees. You can do this in your backyard barbecue or in a campfire. If you live in an area where open fires are illegal, you'll have to locate a more suitable location outdoors. If you built a fire to burn your documents, be sure to clean up the area when you have finished.

  3. Fill a bucket or rubbish bin halfway with water and add the papers. Fill the rest of the container to within 5 cm (2 inches) of the top with water. Depending on the amount of papers you added, let them sit in the water for a few hours or overnight. The more paper you put in the container, the longer you should leave them soaking in the water. When they have soaked for the amount of time you desire, use a broom or rake handle or something similar and stir the water and paper mixture vigorously for about five minutes. This will break the paper down into a pulpy mush.

  4. Pay a document destruction service to take care of your papers. You can also take the papers to a local business that performs large-scale shredding and ask them if they will include your papers for a small fee.

  5. Tip

    Banks, hospitals and doctor's offices or clinics also frequently destroy large amounts of documents. One of these types of facilities may be willing to shred your documents for a small fee. If you use the water-soaking method, add one part milk to two parts water. The combination of milk and water will speed up the breakdown of the paper into mush, especially after stirring with the broom handle.


    If you burn your documents to destroy them, ensure you have a fire extinguisher with you in case the fire gets out of control.

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Things You'll Need

  • Papers you want to destroy
  • Scissors
  • Barbecue or firewood
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Bucket or rubbish bin
  • Water (enough to fill the bucket or rubbish bin)
  • Milk (optional)
  • Broom, rake or similar long-handled tool

About the Author

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