Nearly flawless laminating. Laminates 3, 5, 7 and 10 mil pouch thickness. Fast, easy laminating. A real workhorse.
Thicker projects require several passes.
Capable of hot or cold laminating. Suitable for home craft projects.
Slow and loud. Expensive machine.
Ready in one minute. Automatic shutoff. Versatile wide width.
Arrives with limited 3 mil pouches. Not designed to handle pouches thicker than 5 mil.
Lightweight and portable. Safer for young users. Cartridge system dispenses precise lengths.
Plastic is noticeably thin. Rollers must be kept exceptionally clean. Refilling the cartridge is tricky.
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Whether it’s to protect files and documents at the office or preserve your crafting projects at home, a laminator is a handy tool. When items are laminated, you don’t have to worry about them getting bent, torn, wrinkled, dirty, or damaged by liquids, which means they will last much longer.
But purchasing a laminator can be a confusing process. There are several different types of laminators to choose from, as well as certain features that can make one model a better fit for your projects than others.
At BestReviews, we’re here to help you sort through your options. Because we don’t accept free products from manufacturers, our recommendations are always completely unbiased. We consult with experts to identify key features of the products we review, and then we test the top options in our labs and the field to be certain they meet the highest standards. That’s how we’re able to pass along all the information you need to choose the best products.
If you’re ready to buy a laminator, take a look at the matrix above for our five favorites. For what to look for before you buy a laminator, continue reading our shopping guide.
At the office, you can use a laminator to laminate:
Price and parts lists
Education and training materials
Restaurant and bar menus
A laminator comes in handy for preserving momentos, such as family photos, report cards, or children’s artwork.
If you enjoy crafting, you can use a laminator to:
Make homemade playing cards
Preserve your children’s artwork
Prepare memory books for your children
Laminating items protects them from spills, stains, and smudges. It also guards against fingerprints.
Hot laminators: Hot laminators use heat to melt the adhesive backing on the pieces of plastic film. This bonds the plastic film around the item you are laminating to completely seal the item.
Roll laminators work best for high-volume projects, so they are ideal for commercial and business applications.
Roll laminators: Roll laminators use rolls of plastic film. These laminators work best for larger items.
Some laminators allow for both hot and cold laminating for the most versatility.
Hot laminators are the most common type, and they work well for most applications. However, a cold laminator is a better option if you’re laminating heat-sensitive materials, such as vinyl or vintage photographs. You may also prefer a cold laminator if you’re going to use the laminator with children. With a cold laminator, you don’t have to worry about the machine getting too hot.
Pouch laminators are the best option for home use because you’re usually laminating smaller items. For business or commercial use, a roll laminator may be more effective because it can handle larger projects, such as posters and maps.
A laminator’s capacity refers to the thickness, or gauge, of the plastic film that the machine can handle. The gauge for laminating film is measured in mils. Film or pouches with a higher gauge are thicker and more rigid.
Standard capacity: Standard capacity is three mils. This works well for most home applications, including photos, menus, crafts, and checklists, because its slight flexibility isn’t an issue.
Medium capacity: Medium capacity is five mils. This works well for legal files, photos, and recipe cards.
Rigid capacity: Rigid capacity is seven mils. This works well for ID cards, luggage tags, calendars, and sales or marketing materials.
Roll laminators require more space than pouch models, so check that you have the appropriate room if you’re considering a roll model.
The appropriate width for a laminator depends on the size of the items you plan to laminate.
Photo: Photo laminators can accommodate photos and other items that are up to four inches in width.
Small/medium: Small/medium laminators, or document laminators, can accommodate items that are up to eight-and-a-half to nine inches in width.
Medium/large: Medium/large laminators can accommodate items that are up to 13 inches in width.
Extra wide: Extra wide laminators can accommodate items that are up to 27 inches in width.
Some hot laminators offer adjustable temperature control, which allows you to choose how hot the machine gets. The type of temperature control varies from laminator to laminator. Some laminators offer two or more heat settings, while others have a dial, so you can choose a more precise temperature. Higher-end models have digital controls that allow you to type in a specific temperature for the laminating process. You can also find laminators that enable you to turn off the heat, so you can use the machine for both hot and cold laminating.
Most hot laminators beep or flash an indicator light when they’re fully pre-heated and ready for laminating.
It’s not uncommon for the plastic film or pouch to get jammed in the laminator. To make it easier to remove the jam, look for a model with a reverse function. This allows you to reverse the direction of the rollers to easily slide out the plastic. Some laminators also have jam release, which slacks the rollers’ tension, so you can pull the pouch or film free.
If you choose a hot laminator, look for a model with safety features to prevent accidents. An auto shut-off feature keeps the machine from overheating if you forget to turn it off. Some laminators have double-walled insulation, which prevents the exterior from getting hot. This is an especially important feature if you’re buying a laminator to use with children.
For safety reasons, always unplug a laminator when you’re done using it.
Laminators vary widely in price based on type, size, and features, but you can typically expect to spend between $17 and $300.
Inexpensive: For a basic laminator that can handle smaller projects, you’ll usually pay between $17 and $65.
Mid-range: For an intermediate laminator that can handle mid-size projects, you’ll usually pay between $70 and $175.
When you’re new to using a laminator, practice on the machine with pieces of scrap paper. That way, you’ll be confident when it comes time to laminate important items.
Allow a hot laminator to fully heat up before laminating items, or the film might not properly seal.
Use a good printer if you’re printing out items to laminate. It’s best to use fresh ink cartridges to ensure the colors are as saturated as possible.
While you can laminate thicker paper items like card stock and poster board, regular paper items are just as durable once laminated.
If you have a hot laminator, don’t use it with thermal paper. Thermal paper reacts to heat, so all the images will likely turn out black.
You can use scissors to cut items once they’re laminated. This allows you to run multiple items through the laminator at once and separate them after you’re finished.
Q. What’s the most common mistake when it comes to buying laminators?
A. The most common mistake is buying a laminator that’s not large enough to handle the projects you plan to laminate. For home use, machines that laminate items up to 12 inches in width are usually sufficient. However, for office or commercial use, where you may need to laminate posters, signs, and other larger items, you should upgrade to a larger machine.
Q. What type of laminator is best for fragile items?
A. For fragile items, it’s best to avoid hot laminators. The heat may damage fragile photos, documents, or other items. Instead, opt for a cold laminator that uses pressure to seal the plastic film around the documents.
Q. Are laminators safe for children to use?
A. Laminators are well-suited for a variety of projects that children enjoy. However, because they use heat or pressure to seal the film, children under the age of 12 shouldn’t use a laminator on their own. With adult supervision, kids can use a laminator as long as proper safety procedures are followed.