Shredder Particle Sizes: A Comprehensive Guide

May 7, 2019

Shredder Particle Sizes: A Comprehensive Guide

Security levels for paper shredders are one of the most important factors to consider when shopping. Some users may need a basic P-3 while others need a P-7 for top security. But what do these ratings actually mean? In this article, we will go over the different security levels, explaining exactly what they mean, the particle sizes, and what kinds of documents they are intended for, as well as any limitations that they may have. This comprehensive guide can be your go-to for all information regarding data destruction with a shredding machine.

Shred Particle Security Level Overview

Before we dive deep into the details of the various security level particle sizes for shredding paper, let's first review them in an overview chart so you can easily compare the more notable factors. Price range for the different options varies quite a bit based on the volume, capacity, size, and so on, which is why we cannot really list a starting price for each. But, as you can imagine, as the security level gets higher and the shredder particles get smaller, the price ultimately goes up.

Shred Particle Sizes, P1 to P-7 Comparison

Level P-1 P-2 P-3 P-4 P-5 P-6 P-7
Particle Type Strip Strip Cross-Cut Cross-Cut Micro Cut Micro-Cut Micro-Cut
Particle Size (Max) Width: 0.47"
Length: Paper
Width: 0.24"
Length: Paper
Width: 0.08"
Length: 0.5"
Width: 0.24"
Length: 0.25"
Width: 0.08"
Length: 0.05"
Width: 0.04"
Length: 0.02"
Width: 0.04"
Length: 0.01"
DIN Protection Class (1-3) 1 1 1 or 2 2 or 3 2 or 3 3 3
Rating Very Low Low Medium High Very High Top-Secret Top-Secret
Certifications None None None HIPAA HIPAA HIPPA
US Army Reg. 380-5
NSA/CSS 02-01

P-1 Shredders


P-1 Security Shred Sample

A P-1 paper shredder is the lowest security level available, and is recommended only for non-sensitive documents. They produce long strips from your sheet with single-direction shredding, called a strip cut. These strips are a maximum of 0.47" wide, so just under 1/2 of an inch (12mm). If shredding a letter size page (8.5" wide), that creates about 18 strips from your page. As you can imagine, this shred size is a very low security rating, and is not a very common choice for paperwork with any kind of sensitive information on it. One benefit of a P-1 shredder is that they often have a higher capacity to take more sheets at a time, and also often can shred much more than just paper, including credit cards, discs (CDs/DVDs), and more. Covered under DIN protection class 1, strip cut shredders in the P-1 category are on the less expensive end, so a great alternative for those with a strict budget. P-1 shredder documents can be reproduced without any special knowledge or equipment, although the process is time-consuming.


  • Particle Type: Strip
  • Particle Size: < 0.47" Wide
  • DIN Protection Class: 1
  • Security Rating: Very Low
  • Recommended Applications: Non-sensitive documents only. General internal documents.

Popular P-1 Shredders:

  1. Fellowes Powershred 70S (Personal / Home Office)
  2. HSM Model S25 (Home Office)
  3. Fellowes Powershred 90S (Small Office)
  4. Fellowes Powershred 225i (Larger Office)

P-2 Shredders

P-2 Security Shred Sample

A P-2 shredder is also a part of DIN protection class 1, and is also meant only for low security shredding needs. P-2 shredders create long strips of your paper with one-direction cutting, with each strip being less than or equal to 0.24" wide, so just a little less than 1/4 inch or 6mm. Shredding a letter size paper will give you about 35 strips. These strips are half the width of P1, but because they still are long continuous particles, they are still not great for businesses who have sensitive documents to shred. The main benefit of a P-2 security paper shredder is that they can often shred much more than just paper, including staples, paper clips, credit cards, laminate, CD/DVDs, and sometimes more. They also tend to have a thicker capacity so you can shred more pages at once. P-2 shredded materials can be reproduced by-hand or with equipment, although the process is time-consuming


  • Particle Type: Strip
  • Particle Size: < 0.24" Wide
  • DIN Protection Class: 1
  • Security Rating: Low
  • Recommended Applications: Non-sensitive documents only. Internal documents like invoices, photo copies, and other media with no private information on it.

Popular P-2 Shredders:

  1. Fellows Powershed 90S (Personal)
  2. Fellowes Powershred 70S (Home Office)
  3. HSM Securio B32s (Office)
  4. Destroyit 4002 (Large Office)
  5. Dahle 20390 (Large Office/Industrial)

P-3 Shredders

P-3 Security Shred Sample

A P-3 shredder falls into either a DIN protection class of 1 or 2, depending on the shred size. P-3 shredders are the lowest security option for a cross-cut style particle. This means that it cuts in two directions to create, not strips, but confetti-like pieces. They turn your paper into 0.5" x 0.08" particles or smaller (320mm x 0.5mm). This means your letter size paper is cut into 195 or more pieces, making it a medium-security shred job. It sounds pretty secure compared to the strip cut alternatives, and it is! But this is still only rates for medium security shredding, so if you deal with any kind of more sensitive information information, then read on to learn about the higher security options. P-3 shredder materials can only be reproduced with a lot of efforts and special equipment. It is the lowest security level that is acceptable for some forms of sensitive, confidential, or personal data.


  • Particle Type: Cross-Cut
  • Particle Size: 0.5" x 0.08"
  • DIN Protection Class: 1 or 2
  • Security Rating: Medium
  • Recommended Applications: Confidential shredding needs. Internal company documents, some personal data types.

Popular P-3 Shredders:

  1. Powershred 49C (Personal / Home Office)
  2. Powershred 12Cs (Small Office)
  3. Powershred 69Cb (Medium Office)

P-4 Shredders

P-4 Security Shred SampleA P-4 shredder is a cross cut option that makes particles measuring no more than 0.25" x 0.24" (160mm x 6mm). This means they are shorter, but wider than the P-3 alternative. This falls it into the DIN protection classes of either 2 or 3, depending on the final size (since that size is the maximum). This means that any P-4 paper shredder offers medium security and will turn your letter size paper into 390 or more shred particles, making it much more secure. Shredders with a P-4 security level rating are the most common choice for offices and businesses that have client or personnel information to destroy that is private, but not secret or too-sensitive. They are HIPAA compliant for medical data destruction and the best security level shredder for similar businesses. Shredded data with a P-4 shredder can only be reproduced using equipment that is not readily available commercially, making it acceptable for many sensitive, confidential, and personal data instances.


  • Particle Type: Cross-Cut
  • Particle Size: <0.25" x 0.24"
  • DIN Protection Class: 2 or 3
  • Security Rating: Medium
  • Recommended Applications: Confidential shredding of a more secretive nature.

Popular P-4 Shredders:

  1. Intimus 32CC3 (Personal)
  2. Dahle CleanTEC 51214 (Small Office)
  3. Destroyit 2503 (Office)
  4. Destroyit 3104 (Large Office)
  5. Destroyit 4005 (Industrial)

P-5 Shredders

P-5 Security Shred Sample

A P-5 shredder also falls into the DIN protection class of either 2 or 3, depending on the exact particle size. Security 5 paper shredders are the lowest option for micro cross cutting that fit into the high security rating. They produce shred particles that are no larger than 0.05" x 0.08", which turns your letter size paper into nearly 2,100 pieces. Perfect for some lower-level government offices, HIPAA medical facilities, and corporations, P5 shredders destroy sensitive and secretive papers to near impossible-to-reconstruct levels, even when using special equipment, making it a good choice for confidential information.


  • Particle Type: Micro-Cut
  • Particle Size: < 0.05" x 0.08"
  • DIN Protection Class: 2 or 3
  • Security Rating: High
  • Recommended Applications: For shredding very sensitive documents with information that could affect livelihood.

Popular P-5 Shredders:

  1. Intimus Pro 60CP5 (Industrial)
  2. Destroyit 2604 (Large Office)
  3. Dahle 20392 (Industrial)

P-6 Shredders

P-6 Security Shred Sample

A P-6 shredder is one of the top-security solutions for very sensitive information that doesn't necessarily need official NSA/CSS certification status. It is recommended for secret data and meets the US Army regulation 380-5. P-6 shredders create particles that are no larger than 1mm x 10mm, with a maximum surface area of 10mm². Shredded data cannot be reproduced, even with special equipment, making it an appropriate choice for highly confidential information that demands increased security precautions.


  • Particle Type: Micro-Cut
  • Particle Size: < 0.02" x 0.04"
  • DIN Protection Class: 3
  • Security Rating: Very High
  • Recommended Applications: For shredding secretive documents. Espionage-safe. Acceptable for many military and government departments.

Popular P-6 Shredders:

  1. Dahle 40330 (Small Office)
  2. Dahle 40430 (Office)
  3. Dahle 40530 (Industrial)

P-7 Shredders

P-7 Security Shred Sample

A P-7 shredder is the ultimate in document destruction security. There is no shredder that will destroy paperwork so finely as a P-7 security shredding machine. That is why they are the only choice for top-secret destruction needs, such as those in the government, military, and medical fields. Creating minuscule particles that are less than 1mm x 1.5mm, with a maximum particle surface area of 5mm², these shredders are NSA and CSS 02-01 approved for even specialized government facilities. Paperwork shred with a P7 shredder cannot be reproduced in any way with the current state of science, art, and technology. They are the only choice when it comes to classified, top secret, and strictly confidential information that needs to be handles with the highest precautions.


  • Particle Type: Micro-Cut
  • Particle Size: < 0.01" x 0.04"
  • DIN Protection Class: 3
  • Security Rating: Extremely High
  • Recommended Applications: For shredding top-secret documents. NSA/CSS 02-01 approval for use in specialized government and military facilities. Also common in pharmacies and medical facilities.

Popular P-7 Shredders:

  1. Intimus 45CP7 (Home Office)
  2. Intimus 60CP7 (Small Office)
  3. Dahle 41334 (Medium Office)
  4. Dahle 41534 (Larger Office)
  5. Dahle 20394 (Industrial)

Shredding Particle FAQs

Shredder FAQs

Shredding may seem pretty straight forward, but there is a surprising amount of thought and effort that goes into, not just choosing the best shredder for your individual or business' needs, but also though that goes into maintenance of your machine (both cost and time-requirements), what kind of security requirements may be necessary, how many people will be using it, and so on. Below are the questions we most often receive about paper shredding and document destroying. You may see some links below, which will take you to other blog posts that have more information on the topic at hand, or may take you off-site to reference sites with more information. And if you hit any bumps along the way, or if you have a question not answer below, please reach out to us at (866) 537-2244.

  1. What is DIN 66399? DIN 66399 refers to the classification or standard of security requirements for data destruction. DIN 66399 has replaced the older DIN 32757, now indicating seven different security levels and better defining the surface area requirements on orders for shred particles to meet these levels. This new DIN also specifies six material categories and three classification levels.
  2. What is the difference between cross-cut and micro-cut shred particles? Micro-cut particles are a form of cross-cut that creates even smaller, unidentifiable particles. Cross-cut begins at a security level P-3 and requires particles to have a surface area no greater than 320mm² (for example, 6mm x 50mm). Micro cross-cut begins at a security level P-5 and requires particles to have a surface area no larger than 30mm² (for example, 2mm x 15mm. These are the starting sizes for cross-cut and micro-cut, and as the security level increases, the particle size decreases.
  3. What shredder is the most secure? A P-7 shredder will be the most secure possible option. P7 shredders are actually NSA/CSS 02-01 approved for government compliance for top-secret documents, so it truly is the best of the best.
  4. What is HIPAA compliance?HIPAA stands for "health insurance portability and accountability act" and is a law that helps ensure your medical data is protected properly.
  5. What shredders are HIPPA compliant? HIPPA does not expressly identify a security level required for data destruction. Instead, the HHS puts forth that documents must be "rendered essentially unreadable" so that they "cannot be reconstructed." For many medical facilities, the minimum security level to meet these standards is a P-4, however, to ensure this level of destruction, it is recommended to choose a micro cross-cut shredder that produces extremely small shred particles; this would include P-5, P-6, and P-7 levels.
  6. What brands of shredders are best for security? Dahle, Intimus, MBM, and HSM are the best shredder brands when it comes to security.
  7. How do I keep my shredder running at peak performance? Oiling your shredder is probably the simplest and most effective way to keep your paper shredder running at like-new condition. It will not only reduce wear, but also keep the blades sharp, remove paper dust, reduce noise, and more.
  8. Are there any eco-friendly shredders? To ensure your shredder is eco-friendly, you will look for one that has automatic shut-off, which will reduce power consumption. You will also want to look for oil-free shredders, as you will no longer have to use oil that harms our environment. If your shredder will be used for various materials, you will also want to be sure they have separate compartments so you can properly recycle the contents. And then, of course, the last step is up to you; recycle your shredded materials.

Recommended Shredder Brands

When it comes to destroying documents with sensitive information of any kind, whether that be personal information, bank statements, medical records, personnel information, or anything else; you should always be thinking about the risk level of those documents getting out, and choose a security level and particle size based on that. We always recommend cross cut options, preferably a minimum of a P-4 shred size for the best protection. But you should evaluate your individual needs and let those guide you to the best option. A micro cross cut would be a better choice for government organizations or medical offices, while the cross cut is often a great choice for standard business shredding.

In general, we prefer the world-renowned brands that are recognized specifically for their document shredders, which includes MBM Corporation, Dahle, and Intimus. These premium brand names build their shredders to a standard that is unmatched by any other, and will out-perform the others accordingly. You can find these shredders in the most stringent situations and the largest corporations, when quality and longevity of the machine are an important factor.

For more information or a quote, call us at (866) 537-2244 (866) 537-2244 or email

Mallory Morsa, Binding101 Product Expert About the Author • Mallory Morsa has been part of Binding101 since 2008 and she is the primary content creator for BUY101® information. She began in customer service and sales where she honed in her skills to provide the customer with professional, fast, and accurate information. Shortly after, she was promoted to sales supervisor and also took on the role of product expert, training the team on new products. Throughout this time, she also wrote content for the site, as well as contributed stock photography and videography. As the team grew, she moved to an official position as the content specialist and social media manager. Her skills in these variety of areas give her the unique expertise to not just create content for the web, but to create content for you, the customer. She has a Bachelor's degree in business management and marketing, was on the Dean's List each year, and graduated Summa Cum Laude. In her free time, Mallory's favorite things to do include volunteering at the animal shelter by bottle feeding neonatal kittens, reading at the park, cooking plant-based meals, playing board games, hiking, and binge streaming TV shows with her furbabies and family beside her.

Posted in: Shredding