I have a lot of letters which I would like to throw away. But for security and privacy reasons I will always tear it with my hands, one by one. It tends to get tiring with the monotonous work. So I bought a paper shredder recently, which allows maximum of 9 pieces of paper each time.

However this does not solve my problem as the paper shredder is very noisy and very often get stucked in the machine even with only 5 pieces paper inserted. Thus I need to spend more time to fix the mess than the time to manually tear the papers.

Is there any life hack I can use to shred my letters neatly without using the paper shredder or getting stuck with the monotonous work tearing them one by one??

  • 8
    Do you have kids? Kids love to use shredders (source: I was a kid once). They'll happily shred all the documents you tell them to with as few sheets of paper at a time as you request them to. The noise is awesome to them!
    – Justin
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 7:28
  • 6
    Is burning an option for you? It's quick, albeit a little messy. Plus it's enjoyable in a childish, destroying things kinda way. Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 7:57
  • 1
    Just a note: any manual tearing is not safe. It makes it very easy to recover the documents - it's not more work for any evil person than solving a jigsaw puzzle. Shredder pieces are harder to recover (but still not impossible) as they are at least all the same.
    – Takkat
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 8:14
  • @Duncan, burning is not an option as we are not allow to burn things in our apartment and it smells alot. :)
    – Win.T
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 10:08
  • @Quincunx I do not have any kids around..
    – Win.T
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 10:08

17 Answers 17


My first answer here isn't so much a hack as it is using something that is on the market to achieve what you want.
Have you ever heard of paper shredding scissors? Basically they are a pair of scissors with multiple (~5) blades and you can use these to quickly shred your paper.

This is what I am talking about:
enter image description here

These can be found on Amazon here.

You could also try burning the documents, just get a metal bucket or something non-flammable to put the bits of paper in and then take it outside and set it on fire - if you smoke it would make a nice outside heater during the winter but could be a bit of a hazard so is something to think about.

Another method: Soak them in water. This method may take a while however but you will be able to dispose of large quantities of documents in any one go - adding things like vinegar or salt to the warm water solution would help to speed up the process.

There are also independent paper disposal companies that you could look into if you want to pass the job off onto someone else. Your local area or city might do a document destruction day which you can hop along to and destroy all your documents for free but you would have research into this.


  • Shredding scissors
  • Fire
  • Water or chemical solution
  • Independent companies / destruction day

My personal favourite would be the water one, you could also use bleach which would do more damage and I would personally give it a good mix with a long stick or something to really break up the paper. Even if the paper doesn't tear apart, most of the writing should become illegible so it wouldn't even matter!

  • "My first answer here isn't so much a hack as it is using something that is on the market to achieve what you want." > So why include that in your answer? Also, farming the job out to disposal companies isn't a hack either. The water suggestion seems interesting though. Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 10:09
  • 4
    @Duncan Because it still might not be something that the OP has considered and may be of use to them and again with the companies
    – MrPhooky
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 10:29
  • @elliotdawes I'm just concerned at this beta site stage to see answers that are 50% comprised of non-hacks. Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 10:36
  • 1
    @Duncan I understand that, I just felt that if it aids the OP it is worth mentioning along with some other hacky methods. Could be something to discuss on Meta?
    – MrPhooky
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 10:38
  • 2
    Note that the water method only works if you attempt to do some other type of damage after wards, it weakens the paper but often they can still be restored, my mother has a that amongst other things can restore water damaged paper and you would be surprised how much wet+crumpled+torn paper can be restored (almost to the point where you can no longer see the damaged occurred).
    – Thijser
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 12:15

Soak the papers with ordinary water and immediately crumple and squeeze them to compact lumps. Nobody is ever going to read those again!

This method doesn't take a lot of time and does not involve chemicals, in fact you don't even need a bucket. Use warm water for comfort, if available.

I call this the "papier maché method", although the glue is left out. Papier maché modelling would be a cute way of hiding your discarded sensitive documents in plain sight.


Use a 5 gallon bucket half filled with water; add enough paper to absorb most of the water and let sit for 24 hours; attach a paint mixing drill attachment to your power drill and power stir the saturated documents; drain mulch onto plastic garbage bag in corner of your back yard and let dry; discard in your trash.


This is how I do it,

TubA lot of pages quickly:
Fill a plastic tub with water, soap, salt, and a little bit of sand or ice and bleach. Or if you do not have this just water and soap. Mix it around for about 5 minutes then poor it away. The tiny pieces of paper should clump up so you can scoop them out and throw it away.

FireUnlimited number of pages in seconds:
Light a fire, put it in.

Soak it in a pan of bleach, take it out.

BlenderA few pages in seconds:
Soak the paper in water, then put it in a blender with a red food coloring and ice.

  • 2
    Welcome to Lifehacks SE. I improved your formatting a little. Neat trick: Two spaces at end of line insert a forced line break, i.e. after the ':'. By the way, could you expand a little on what the bleach depends upon?
    – holroy
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 9:56

I suggest you try putting your letters in a blender.

Sounds ridiculous but it should work.


Simple. Put papers in a mesh type laundry bag (that's big enough to allow them to move around) and wash and dry them. Don't forget the bleach. Destruction!!

  • I use the leg from an old pair of panty-hose and knot it shut. Cut off the other leg for a second batch. This works ! ! ! !
    – Stan
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 1:02
  • 1
    This is fairly ingenious, but I would be concerned about paper fragments escaping the bag and clogging the washer. Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 20:46

If I am in a hurry, I tear the paper and put the pieces in two Different recycling/garbage bags. At least there would be pieces missing. I shed anything associated with banking etc. but this works in a jiff.


This may be of limited value depending on where your location and transportation situation, but what I've done is searched online for things like "shredding event [my city]" or "free shredding [my city]" and looked for upcoming free shredding events.

I've done this several times; they've usually been on Saturdays, sponsored by banks or cities, and used giant industrial shredders. It's been more cost- and time-effective than buying a shredder for my small shredding needs.


put the papers into a big black trash bag; add the contents of your cat box: excrement- and urine-soaked litter. Close bag tightly and shake it around. No one will want to paw through to learn your secrets.


I utilize my printer to feed 8-1/2 x 11 paper to my shredder, this way I don't have to manually feed the shredder. Just line up the shredder's feed slot with the sheet that comes out of your printer as soon as the sheet falls off your printer. You will have to do some experimentation like positioning the shredder with the printer. I put 2 pieces of cardboard between the shredder's feed slot so the paper falls exactly where you want it. Stack up your printer with as many sheets as you want, go to your computer's Word App, click on Blank Document, type a period symbol, choose how may copies you want and hit print. Once in a while a sheet may miss the slot, just do the shredding while surfing the web so you can monitor this operation. Hope this helps. Have fun!

  • 2
    I had to read this answer twice before I understood and upvoted it! At first, I thought you were printing documents and immediately shredding them before anyone even read them. Then I understood what you are doing, and it's quite clever. Probably a big waste of electricity and a lot of wear and tear on the printer, but still very, very clever. When it works well, it's probably a big timer saver. Commented Mar 5, 2021 at 5:14

You can fold the paper in various ways and then cut it with a scissor. With one cut many pieces will be formed.

Another way--

If you have any printer then you can insert those pages into it and print a page full of alphabets, symbols, etc. This will overwrite your important letters. Now even if it gives large strips, one can hardly understand whats written over there.

  • But the pieces will possibly unfold to longer strips, so this is not really a good option...
    – holroy
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 12:43

If you have kids you could let them use them for things like hand paintings or other actions that may or may not result in the absolute destruction of the document


Receipts plague my life and if not destroyed relatively soon, they can build up into a mammoth job to discard. My current strategy is simply hand-shred them as soon as I get home/work and notice them lying around or in my pocket.

Firstly, decide if it's worth keeping (for warranty etc.) then simply tear the receipt around where sensitive information is displayed.

Discard the surrounding receipt like normal but with the bit containing sensitive information, I find that receipt paper is surprisingly easy to tear into thin shreds by hand!

  • Is this even a thing? Receipt security seems a little paranoid. Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 5:33

Most methods here are silly and time consuming. All you have to do is put the document(s) in a bucket of water. I tear them up in 6 or 8 pieces, but that might be an over-reach. Leave them there for 10 mins or so. Come back, shred with your fingers, takes only a couple minutes. Then simply separate the pieces here and there, mush them and create little balls with your fists to take the water out. Dump them in your bin. You are done!

  • 1
    That answer has already been given.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Aug 22, 2017 at 8:12

If all you're concerned about is your name, address and any reference numbers getting into the wrong hands then just cut these bits off with scissors, rip into small pieces and flush down the loo or burn them. As long as the rest of the information isn't important then the rest can be disposed of as normal.


You can do what I do! Eat your info! (kind of..)

Toss them in a bucket of cold water for about an hour, then stick em in a bag with mushroom spawn, let them spread, and eat the mushrooms! =P

Granted, that's a bit of an oversimplified explanation, but hey, nobody has said it yet!


I do like in spy movies. Metal ashtray + lighter. Do it right after receiving a package so it does not accumulate. We don't want smoke. This works for both pure paper and sticker like labels.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.