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Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Paper Shredder: Removing Stuck Plastics Sheets

Note to self: Never put thin plastics wrappers through paper shredder.

Just now in the evening, I was at home. Thinking of clearing up some stuff that have been left lying around the house, I picked up a pile of flyers and promotional booklets that managed to find their way into our weekly mail.

Two of those booklets came wrapped up in clear wrappers with a piece of sticker with our names and address printed on it. Not wanting people to find out our address and our names, I removed those plastics wrappers and fed one of the pieces to the paper shredder. Since the shredder claimed it could even shred credit cards, I expected it to be able to work on thin plastics wrappers.

To my horror the plastics wrapper became entangled in the shredding mechanism! The motor ground to a halt and refused to advance any more.  After a few more attempts at stopping and starting the motor a few more times without getting the film out, I stopped the motor and peered into the mechanism from below.

Being able to stretch and wrap itself around, the strips of plastics clung to the mechanism. I think this happened due to the fact that unlike regular pieces of paper, and credit cards, the plastics film is stretchable, even though it may be thinner. The motors heated up after my repeated attempts to get the gears to turn after they were stuck. That did not help the situation when it further softened the plastics and make them stretch and wrap around the gears even more.
The plastics sheet that caused all the trouble! 

The clear plastics film wrapped itself around the shredding gears inside in clumps of mashed up strands. 

I spent the next hour trying to sort out this mess, untangling the stretched plastics strands wrapping itself around the shredding gears. Here's what to do if you ever find yourself in the same situation. 

Note: The following steps helped me resolve my problem. Here's the brand and model of my paper shredder. Brand: GBC, model: Alpha Confetti Cut. If you are unsure it will work for your model and make, please consult the service and support for  your respective product. 

The following steps also involve using a pair of scissors to cut and pry the plastics free from the shredding mechanism. Please do not cut yourself on the scissor blades. Also, do not apply force with the blades on the mechanism. This may dislodge them from their current alignment. It may also bend or dent them. All this may affect the proper functioning of your shredder after you've remove the offending plastics wrapper.

1) First, engage the  reverse gear to make the motor go in the opposite direction, to let the machine attempt to spew out the plastics wrapper in the reverse direction. (if your machine does not have the reverse button, find some way to make the motors advance even if in the forward direction a bit, so it exposes more of the mess that is stuck inside the unreachable areas of the gears)

2) Take a pair of scissors, open up and insert a single blade in from the loading end (on the top for me). Aim for the mess of tangled plastics and try and cut them loose with the sharp end of the blade. 
Using the blade to cut lose bits that are stuck and tightly stretched. I also usde the blade to fish out loose ends so I can pull on them to see if they could be removed. 

3) Turn the motor to expose the mechanism from the bottom. Use your fingers to try to pull on the tangled mess. (Caution: Beware of sharp protruding edges). Pull at different areas where the plastics go into the gears. In doing so, we are testing which parts of the gears are gripping harder on the plastics wrapper. Depending on how your mechanism was designed to shred, you will realise bits of your wrapper come off easily. For me, the middle part grips the plastic the tightest. There is no way to pull the plastics out for even an extra inch. The sides (for my machine) did not exert any pull on the plastics so it gave me a lot of freedom to remove bits of the plastics that stick out from there. 

4) For the bits that are stuck in the centre of the gears, they are stuck and cannot be moved. However there will be areas where you see the plastics material being stretched and pulled and strained. Again, use the single blade from our scissors to disentangle as them and cut them loose as much as possible, leaving no lose ends to feed back into the gears. As we are cutting them loose we can again pull on those loose ends to test the grip on the gears on those strips to see if any of the bits we cut have become loose in the process.  
Using the blade of the scissors to cut lose exposed bits that are tightly stuck and stretched

5) Now put the motor portion back upright, fixed properly in its proper position, and try to advance the motors again (try and engage the reverse gear if its avaiable to you). If you want to advance forward and the motor does not run, it may be that it is not detecting any paper to shred. so you may want to feed smaller pieces of paper for it to detect and thus trigger the motors to attempt to advance. 

Keep repeating these steps and you will gradually find that even after you've removed lots of bits of plastics from the mechanism after 1 round, more bits of plastics will appear and come around to the exposed parts of the gears next time you advance (or reverse) the mechanism and take a look again. 
More plastics being exposed after advancing the motor
Keep repeating these steps and you will find that while the motor was stuck in the beginning, it will now advance better. Soon you will find that when you advance the motor, there will be no more plastics bits churned out. That would mean that you have successfully removed all the stuck bits.

For my case, there are still a few very short bits of plastics wrapper I could not remove. They are still sticking out from one or two corners, but it is not impeding the shredder from functioning normally, so I am leaving them there. :)


  1. Ohh! I’m glad that you were able to remove those plastics from your paper shredder. It is also a good thing that your shredder wasn’t so hot when you placed those plastics. Melted plastics are harder to remove. Maintaining a paper shredder isn’t that hard. You just need to brush of the dust and put some shredder oil once in a while to keep the blades lubricated. Aside from soft plastics, you should also avoid having cloth and other similar materials on your paper shredder!

  2. Great blog! This might be a good information for those who have paper shredder inside their house and even in offices, if they encounter same problem like this it could be easy for them what should do. Nice blogsite.

  3. Finally someone can tell me how to do this! Just an FYI dont shred the plastic sleeve covers either.

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  8. same thing happened to me! haha i used our office shredder, i thought it was ok to shred plastic (mail, package plastic envelope with address) i was doing the exact same thing as oyou did! awesome! it made me laugh. although theres still a few bits and pieces of plastic on it.

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  10. Decorate the plastic. Find an object about the diameter of your finger to mold the ring around, such as the handle of a wooden spoon, corrugated plastic sheets

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