Before Adolf Ehinger invented the paper shredder, people destroyed their sensitive documents by burning them. So if you don’t have access to a paper shredder, you need not worry that you can’t securely get rid of your bank statements.
But how do you go about building your fire?
In this article, I will inform you of things you should keep in mind when burning your paper documents at home.
Fire Pits Are The Best
The best way to burn paper documents is in a fire pit. You can get a freestanding metal fire pit from home improvement retailers like Home Depot. Alternatively, you can build a fire pit yourself in the backyard.
If you have ever tried to burn a stack of papers, or an entire book, you know how difficult it is to get at the pages in the middle, most of which survive the fire intact. Fire pits lessen that problem. You see, freestanding fire pits stand above the ground, allowing better aeration. The circulation of air enables the fire to burn your documents completely.
As an alternative to the burn pit, you can burn the documents in a burn barrel. You could also use professional burn cages. Or use your barbecue grill, if you don’t have many papers to burn. A bonfire may also work well.
Things To Remember
- Do some research on your area’s open burn regulations. It might be illegal to burn trash outdoors in your residential area or city. You may need to acquire a permit from the location’s authorities.
- Ensure you take all necessary precautions to avoid having an out-of-control fire. Like having a fire extinguisher or something to put out the fire at hand, in case things go awry.
- Choose a relatively calm day to burn your documents. If it’s too windy, there is a high risk of pieces of flaming paper flying off and spreading the fire. And if some of the documents fly off unburned, strangers will get hold of your sensitive information.
- Don’t wander away from your fire. Keep watch over it. This will prevent you from losing control of the situation should the wind get too strong or if an animal knocks over your fire barrel.
- If the paper has a plastic coating (most magazines, newspaper inserts, or wrapping paper), don’t put it in the fire. You may not know this, but these materials are often printed with metal-containing ink that will emit toxic fumes when combusted. Plain printer paper, envelopes, and newspapers are safe.
- It goes without saying that you should ensure there are no flammable materials or substances in the vicinity of your fire.
- One way to prevent fire from spreading beyond your fire pit is pouring sand around the perimeter. You can also surround the fire pit with stones.
- Add wood to the fire to get it going long enough to burn through all your documents. Use the driest paper you have to start the fire. Small, dry, brittle sticks are also excellent kindling. Afterward, you may, you include the bigger logs.
- You can also use lighter fluid if getting the fire going becomes a problem. Windy days are especially tough. Just make sure you don’t drop the bottle into the flame or spray too much lighter fluid in one go: it would result in a sudden burst of flame which might cause you injury.
- You should not throw in all your documents. Otherwise, some of the middle pages will remain intact, though the fire burns all around the edges. Find something to poke the documents with to ensure every single sheet of paper turns to ashes. Poking the documents, and not burning too many at once, improves aeration, which in turns improves the quality and effectiveness of the fire.
- After you are done, make sure you poke the debris to inspect for unburned scraps of paper. You can use the resulting ashes for composting purposes.
One of the best things about destroying paper documents in a fire is how incredibly fun it is to watch them burn. The best way to do it, as we have established, is using a fire pit, which you can purchase as a freestanding unit or build yourself. Remember to check the open burn regulations of your state or city before you do anything.