Guide: How to Find NSA Approved Shredders


Shredders have always been a great security measure. They shred your important documents into tiny particles. Therefore, important information can’t be found. Your full name, address, bank information, and even your social security number can appear on physical documents. Before discarding these, always shred them to avoid identity theft. How do you know which shredders are the safest? The best way is to find NSA approved shredders that shred your documents to the tiniest pieces. Do you regularly receive documents that list sensitive information? Dispose of them in the safest fashion. Read this guide to find out how to identify NSA shredders and where to buy them.

About NSA Shredding

The NSA (National Security Agency) and CSS (Central Security Service) have to shred documents on a regular basis. They deal with a lot of sensitive information that can’t be leaked. Therefore, they’re the experts at teaching Americans how to protect their documents. The shredding process depicts the cutting of the document into tiny particles. The goal of a shredder is to make the document unreadable and unable to be pieced back together. Before each shredder reaches the shelves, the NSA and CSS review the shredders and give their classification.

Shredding Security Levels — Overview

The NSA grades shredder security levels by the size the shredder cuts the document particles. The smaller the particle, the more secure the shredder. There are six levels the NSA classifies shredders. 1 is the lowest security and 6 is the highest. NSA shredders can’t have a level lower than 3. The NSA also grades the shredder by its cut type.

Shredding Types

When you’re looking for a shredder, understand different shredding types work for different documents. Here are the two most common shredding types:

Strip Cut

A strip cut creates particles that are thin strips. While this is usually safe, the document can still be reassembled with tape.

Cross Cut

These are usually the shredders that are NSA approved. The reason why is because these NSA approved shredders cut the document into pieces that are extremely small. Crosscut shredders use the common strip cut blade but also use a second blade. This results in a criss-cross cut rather than a straight down cut. This creates the illusion that the document is like confetti. This makes the document impossible to reassemble.

How to Find NSA Approved Shredders

There are several resources available when finding an NSA approved shredder. Reputable retailers will have the product marked with all NSA/CSS standards.

Check the NSA Website

The best way to know if a shredder is NSA approved or not is to check their website. The NSA has specifications concerning the safest way to shred important documents. The NSA evaluated these products and are confident listing their name on these products. An NSA approved shredder could also be labeled as CSS. The CSS is the Central Security Service, and also acts within the same specifications as the NSA. However, the NSA website doesn’t often show retailers for these shredders. You’ll have to take down the shredder device name and model number and conduct a separate search to find a retailer. You can also take down the company’s contact information (also listed on the NSA website) to find out where they sell their shredders.

Check the NSA/CSS Label

You may even see an NSA/CSS label when you’re shopping for a shredder. This is the label you want to look for. This label means the NSA and/or CSS evaluated the shredder and approved it’s at the highest standards for protecting your documents.

This label alone tells you the documents will be unreadable after it’s out of the shredder. But remember, each consumer needs a shredder for a different reason. Always see what size the shredder will shred your documents as well as the type of cut.

Look for a Level 6 Shredder

If you truly want an NSA approved shredder, find a level 6 shredder. This is the highest security rating the NSA can give a shredder. The dimensions of the particles: 1/32″ x 5/32″ or 1 mm x 5 mm. Some level 6 shredders produce slightly larger particles, depending on the cut of the particles. The dimensions of these cuts are 1/26″x 1/5″. This cut is still acceptable, secure, and NSA/CSS approved.

Other Information

A quality shredder consists of more than an NSA approval. You need to know the sheet capacity, what it can shred, and how fast it shreds. Manufacturers usually provide this information with the NSA approval.

Look for a High Sheet Capacity

You want your shredder to be secure and NSA/CSS approved. However, you still want to get your full use out of your shredder. If you need to shred a large and multi-paper document, be sure you can do so with your shredder. There is quality NSA approved shredders that can shred up to 18 sheets. You should also look for a cross cut standards with the NSA/CSS 02-01 approval.

Other Additional Features

A quality shredder can operate in many ways. In addition to searching for the NSA label, find other security features such as the shredding speed.

Some additional features include:

  • Shred Speed
  • Feed Opening
  • Cut Size and Type
  • Sheet Capacity
  • Machine Dimensions
  • What the Machine Can Shred
  • The Size of the Bin Capacity

When You Pay More, You Receive Quality

Quality NSA approved shredders can cost anywhere between $1,500 and $8,000. However, you truly receive quality when you pay more. For example, you have to oil the machine so it works properly. There are cheaper shredder bundles that come with oil. But the more expensive models don’t need oil. The more expensive ones are usually safer, offering designs that protect your fingers and any other objects that may become stuck in the shredder. The expensive models may come with more features, such as power saving modes and additional accessories.

Find NSA Approved Shredders

The most important shredder quality is if the shredder meets all of the qualifications of the NSA/CSS. The shredder has to be a level 6 and cut the document to where it’s unreadable and can’t be reassembled. There are additional conditions your shredder should meet. You’ll want to know what shredding type it has, what the shredding size is, the size of the machine, the speed, and the sheet capacity.

If you want the best quality NSA approved shredders, search our products.


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