What do you do with documents like your bank statements or tax forms which you don’t want strangers to see? Do you let them just accumulate? The easiest thing you can do in your situation is to get yourself a paper shredder. You could also burn the documents.
But what if you can’t burn or shred them? What can you do to destroy your confidential documents when burning and shredding are out of the question?
Water is surprisingly effective at rendering confidential documents unreadable. If you soak your documents in water, giving them one or two days, the paper will gradually dissolve into a soggy pulp. It will be easy for you to tear this pulp manually. You could also stomp on it hard to force it into a hard slab which you can discard in the trash without any fear.
But more effective than water alone is a mixture of water and bleach. Here’s what you should do:
Look for a plastic container which can hold more than 21L of liquid. The container needs to be this big to accommodate all the documents you want to destroy. The container’s material should also be robust enough to withstand contact with bleach – most plastic trashcans will do the job just fine. Since you are using 21L of water and bleach solution, the container should be much bigger than that to give you enough room for churning.
Get some bleach, and pour 2L in the container. That’s half a gallon. Bleach is great because, in addition to acting on the paper itself, it will also destroy the colorants within the ink, ensuring total destruction.
Remember that bleach is dangerous. Take care that it doesn’t spill on your skin or eyes. And don’t ingest any of it, so wash your hands well after you are through. Protect yourself with a pair of gloves and eye cover. And wear pants, long-sleeved shirts, and shoes that cover every inch of your feet.
A word of caution: never mix bleach with anything other than water. A combination of bleach with other chemicals may end up producing toxic flames. Ammonia, a compound used in toilet bowl cleaners, is certainly a no-no. So don’t experiment. And no matter what anyone tells you, don’t use acids like hydrochloric acid.
If you happen to ingest the bleach solution, drink a glass of milk or water. If serious, call poison control or see a doctor.
Next, pour 19L of water (five gallons) into the bucket. If some of the documents are above the liquid surface, push them down to ensure they are thoroughly saturated in the solution. But if you find that you can’t accommodate all your documents in one go, you can organize them into batches and do them one batch at a time.
If you don’t have gloves, use a broom stick to force the documents to submerge in the solution. At all costs, avoid touching the solution with your bare hands.
The next step is easy: wait. 24 hours should be enough to disintegrate the paper, making it easier to pulp it. You can then use an electric mixer to blend the softened, wet paper into a soft mash. But if you don’t have a mixer, don’t worry. Use a broomstick to break apart the pieces of paper, churning them, making it impossible for the original documents to be assembled from the resulting mess.
Since you can’t put the pulp in your garbage wet, allow it to dry in the sun. After it’s dry, you can get rid of it. If you want to use the dried pulp as mulch for your garden, don’t go the bleach route. Use water only.
What else can you do to destroy your documents?
Alternatively, you can cut up the documents into small pieces manually. However, that is only feasible when you don’t have many documents to dispose of. It’s a convenient way to ensure these documents don’t build up – for instance, scheduling a cutting-up session once a week. You can obscure the sensitive parts of the documents with a hole punch.
But if you have too many documents to destroy, the best solution would be to seek out the services of a company which specializes in destroying documents. It may be costly, but at least you will be confident that your sensitive information is secure.
Pulping is a perfect method for someone who wants to destroy confidential documents but lacks the facilities for burning or access to a paper-shredding machine. And as you have seen, it’s easy and very do-it-yourself. You can use water alone or water and bleach solution. Alternatively, you can cut up the documents manually or hire a company to destroy your confidential documents for you.