1st Feb 2020

The Golden Rules When it Comes to Disposing of Sensitive Documents

When it comes to disposing of sensitive documents it can be tricky to know what to do.

Many people receive documents featuring sensitive documents regularly, whether it be a bank statement, credit card statement, receipt or similar. Those working for law firms, government agencies or companies dealing with secret information are likely to deal with such sensitive data often.

Or perhaps privacy laws require you to destroy types of files, such as client documents or health and insurance records.

Whatever your role is, throwing away sensitive information isn’t enough to keep it safe from potential thieves and prying eyes. To protect sensitive information from illegal or unethical use, stronger methods of destruction are crucial.

That’s where we come in to help. We’re here to highlight the golden rules when it comes to destroying sensitive documents and some of the best ways to do so.

Understand What Documents Must Be Disposed

First, it’s important to understand exactly what kind of documents need to be destroyed.

These include:

  • Financial or other account numbers such as bills and statements
  • Legal or medical reports
  • Your signature
  • Bank or other financial information, including deposit slips, investment reports, and retirement account information
  • Expired credit and debit cards, identification cards, and passports

It’s important to note that unopened mail is a common target of thieves, so it’s always worth opening mail even if you think it’s trash. Pre-approved credit cards or loan deals can cause damage if found in the wrong hands. Even pre-addressed envelopes are a target as they provide thieves with perceived legitimacy.

Methods of Disposing Sensitive Information

When it comes to confidential paper disposal there are many methods, even without a shredder. Let’s look at some of the best ways of destroying important data.


If you don’t have too much data to destroy then cutting the information into small pieces manually is always an option. Use a hole punch to remove the most sensitive parts of the documents. For example, it’s crucial to remove information like social security numbers.

Then cut what’s left of the documents into tiny pieces using robust heavy-duty scissors.

While this method is effective when practiced carefully, remember that it’s time-consuming and tedious. Only opt for this method if you’re disposing of small amounts of data.


Have you got a lot of data to destroy? Then burning it all in a furnace or an open outdoor area is a good idea. If you have access to a barbecue, fire pit, or fireplace, then you’re in a good position to set anything you don’t want to be found in the wrong hands up in flames.

If you’re burning documents indoors, be very careful, even if you’re using a fireplace and make sure you choose a well-ventilated area.

Throw the papers into the fire bit by bit or tear them into pieces before feeding them to the flames to make sure they burn the best they can.

Remember, the absence of oxygen in the middle of a huge chunk of documents can delay or prevent the fire from burning all the papers.

This method is one of the most effective, destroying all sensitive data on documents if practiced correctly.

The only issue you may have is finding a spot where you can regularly burn documents if you don’t already have one. This is especially relevant as burning outside is not allowed within most cities, unless you organize a fire permit which can be difficult to get hold of.

There are always local services that will incinerate your documents, but, of course, this will cost.


Soak a confidential document in water for long enough and it will eventually become completely unreadable. If you don’t have too many documents to destroy, place a couple of sheets of paper inside a resealable plastic bag and fill it up with water.

If you have a lot of documents to dispose of, use a big bucket or trash can to place them into.

Depending on how many documents you’re destroying, you’ll need to wait for anything from a few hours to a few days. Squeeze and slosh the documents around until all that’s left is pulp.

Once the papers are unreadable and destroyed, rinse as much water from them as possible and place the leftover mush into a heavy-duty trash bag. Throw the trash away as you would normally.

Disposing of sensitive documents by water is very effective and inexpensive, although it’s time-consuming and can be messy.

External Services

While it’s a pricy option if you have lots of documents you need destroying there’s always the option of hiring an external company to destroy them safely.

You’ll need to pay a fee, of course, but for that, you’ll be given quality service and peace of mind knowing that the sensitive information has been disposed of efficiently. What’s more, you won’t have to spend time destroying the documents yourself.

Disposing of Sensitive Documents Safely

Remember, a chunk of old bills, statements, and unopened mail can be a thief’s dream come true. Whether the data is important to you or not, disposing of sensitive documents safely is crucial.

While it can be time-consuming, tedious, or expensive, make sure to destroy sensitive data safely otherwise you may find yourself in trouble. From just a few scraps of paper, thieves can discover all sorts of data including full names, birthdays, addresses, phone numbers, banking details, plus more.

Protect yourself and others by using one of the methods above to destroy and dispose of sensitive information.

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