How to Get Rid of Confidential Papers Without a Shredder

Businesses and homes build up stacks of documents containing sensitive information that eventually need destroying. It could be old bank statements, invoices, CVs, and anything else with personal data. They must be disposed of responsibly to protect the individuals and businesses whose private information they contain – they can’t be recycled with paper.

Shredding confidential papers is an easy and efficient way to destroy sensitive documents and data. However, not every business and household owns a shredder. You might not have the space, money, or need to use a shredder regularly enough to justify buying one. There are other ways to destroy important documents without a shredder though.

Find out how to get rid of confidential papers without a shredder in your business or at home with this guide.

files of documents stacked up.

How to destroy documents 
without a shredder

Shredding documents helps protect the information printed on the paper, prevents fraud and identity theft, and ensures businesses uphold their GDPR obligations. Shredding isn’t the only way to destroy documents safely and effectively, but it may impact what happens to the waste created. There are various ways to destroy documents without a shredder, such as:

Pulp personal papers

Soaking paper documents in water for one or two days and mixing it around is an effective way to make them unreadable. This dissolves the paper into a pulp that you can break up by hand. However, you’ll need the space and patience to leave your documents in buckets of water in a secure place.

You can speed up the paper pulping process by adding bleach to the water. Ensure you use a container that can withstand bleach and wear protective gloves. The bleach destroys the colourants within the ink to leave little traces behind. Then drain the water and bleach safely to avoid it affecting the environment.

Leave the pulp to dry in the sun before disposing of it with your general waste, as unfortunately, it won’t be recyclable. If you only used water and no bleach then the wet pup could be used as mulch on a garden and possibly sent for composting.

Burn sensitive documents

Incinerating paper isn’t advised as it releases dangerous fumes that add to air pollution and are toxic for humans and animals to inhale. However, it’s a possible solution to destroy sensitive documents without a shredder when done in a controlled and responsible manner. Using a proper paper incinerator bin is best.

First, check that fires are allowed in the area where you intend to burn your confidential papers. Tear each paper into smaller pieces first to avoid large bits flying away. Feed the paper into the fire a little bit at a time to keep it under control, with water nearby for safety.

Once all the private papers are burned put the fire out carefully. Break up the ashes safely and check no readable bits of information remain. When the ashes are dry you should dispose of them in your general waste bin.

Learn about ash waste disposal

Manually destroy confidential waste

Cutting up confidential documents with scissors or tearing them by hand is a cheap and easy way to destroy important papers without a shredder. You can also use a hole punch to make printed words and numbers unreadable, such as bank account numbers and addresses. Depending on the size, you might be able to recycle this paper too.

However, it’s a time-consuming task depending on how many documents you need to destroy and the size of your team. It’s not always the most secure way to get rid of confidential data either, as if the papers aren’t torn or cut up small enough then potential thieves could stick them back together.

Use professional confidential waste disposal services

Many professional shredding services can destroy confidential documents safely and securely for your business. At Business Waste, we can collect all types and amounts of confidential waste anywhere in the UK. We can then arrange on-site or off-site confidential waste destruction.

This way your sensitive paper documents are shredded and disposed of in an environmentally friendly way that also protects the information they contain. You receive a Certificate of Destruction for added peace of mind.

Arrange confidential waste disposal

Paper shredder alternatives

If you want to shred your confidential documents but don’t own a shredder there are various alternatives. Shredding important papers into smaller pieces can make it harder for any information or data from them to be stolen. It’s also much more environmentally friendly than burning paper or using chemicals such as bleach to destroy them.

Consider an alternative to a paper shredder with these methods:

  • Scissors – manually shredding paper with scissors is a simple and effective solution. It can take a while and be labour-intensive, depending on how many sheets you need to shred. Speed up the process with shears or multi-blade scissors.
  • Tearing – simply tearing up your confidential papers by hand is a cheap and easy way to destroy them. You’ll need to ensure they’re split into incredibly thin pieces so the information can’t be stuck back together though.
  • Hole punch – if you’ve got paper documents that only contain a few bits of sensitive information then using a hole punch on these sections is an effective method. This can remove private data and make it hard to read. You can dispose of it separately from the rest of the document for added security.
cutting through piece of paper with scissors.

Domestic confidential waste disposal

Using scissors, tearing, and soaking sensitive paper documents are simple methods of domestic confidential waste disposal. As well as the strategies mentioned above, you can also dispose of household confidential waste in a few other ways, including some alternatives to shredding paper waste. Consider these options for household confidential waste disposal:

  • Composting – break down the paper first and slowly introduce small amounts into your compost heap at home. It will degrade and provide carbon to help with the carbon-to-nitrogen balance. However, avoid adding too much at once (which could negatively affect the balance) and don’t compost glossy, laminated, or paper containing high levels of toxic chemicals.
  • Censoring – block or black out the sensitive information on your paper documents before disposing of them. Use a thick black or permanent marker or anything else that can’t be scrubbed off to reveal the details it hides. You can then recycle this paper, rather than burning or disposing of it with general waste, but it can be a time-consuming job.
  • Shred days – some businesses offer local ‘shred days’ for customers, such as banks and recycling companies. Many of these are free and they’ll accept any paper documents for professional shredding. This destroys the private information, but you might build up lots of confidential documents waiting for the next shred day.

Can you destroy documents 
in a washing machine?

You can destroy paper documents in a washing machine. Water turns paper into a pulp and the added spins and force of the machine make the writing unreadable. However, you should put the paper documents in a laundry bag or stocking and tie the top tightly to avoid ending up with a mess.

Once the spin cycle is over just open the bag to check the documents are destroyed and dispose of them with your general waste. You can only destroy regular paper documents in a washing machine, it won’t work for laminated paper or some types of glossy paper.

Learn about shredded paper recycling
washing machine next to shelves and plant pot.

Arrange confidential waste disposal

For a quick, easy, and cost-effective way to destroy your confidential documents use Business Waste. We can collect shredded sensitive documents or arrange on or offsite shredding. All confidential waste is disposed of securely, responsibly, and in an eco-friendly way.

Call 0800 211 8390 or contact us online for your tailored free quote for confidential waste collection and disposal anywhere in the UK today.

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