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What to consider when choosing a laminator

Sometimes the documents you use regularly need extra protection from rips, spills and wrinkles. Laminators seal paper under a protective plastic film that makes it tearproof and waterproof so you can handle them. With your own machine, you can laminate everything from backpack tags to checklists and signs right in the comfort of your home, office or classroom. As you shop for a laminator, it helps to consider how you plan to use it and the features you need.

Thermal vs. pressure laminators

Laminators use either heat or pressure to bond the film to the document. Thermal laminators work by melting the adhesive on the back of the laminating sheet to create the seal. This results in a durable, clear finish that works well for a variety of documents, including maps, menus and signs.

For temperature-sensitive documents like photographs and items printed in inkjet printers, consider a cold laminating machine. Instead of heat, they use a combination of pressure and adhesive that covers one or both sides of the document without damaging the paper or the ink. This type of lamination is popular with people who don't want to wait for the machine to heat up and in places with children and pets.

Pouch vs. roll

Laminating film is available as a roll or a pouch. If you plan to use the laminator for large or oddly sized items like maps, banners and posters, you likely need a roll laminator because you can find them in larger sizes than pouch laminators. These are also useful in shared workspaces where people need the versatility to laminate many different types of documents. Pouch laminators tend to be more budget-friendly, making them more common in homes and small offices. They work well for small tasks like laminating photographs, making identification cards and creating luggage tags.


Laminating film has a thickness rating that indicates the level of protection it provides. A 3 mil rating works well for documents that you handle occasionally, such as signs posted on a door. Film with a 5 mil thickness rating provides more coverage for documents you use more frequently, such as photographs and recipe cards. For even greater protection, you need film with a 7 to 10 mil thickness. Consider this for documents that you use daily, like sales materials, calendars, identification cards and reference documents.


The laminator should have the capacity to hold and process the documents you want to laminate. Look for a machine that can accept the largest size document you use. For example, if you want a laminator for the sole purpose of making identification cards for your employees or customers, you may not need more than a small pouch laminator that sits on a desk. If you need to laminate banners or posters, you may not be able to use a pouch laminator because the pouches come in a limited number of sizes.

Safety features

Other considerations to keep in mind as you shop for a laminator are safety features. Thermal laminators should have an automatic shut-off system that keeps it from overheating if you forget to turn it off after use. Look for a laminator with heat-guard technology. This helps insulate the machine so its surface stays cool and won't burn you if you touch it. Both of these features are important if you keep the laminator in a room that children or pets can access.

Anti-jamming features make it easier for you to remove documents that stick inside the machine. On a roll laminator, a jam release button works by releasing the tension between the rollers so you can remove documents. A reverse function button switches the direction the document moves through the laminator. This is useful if the document sticks soon after you start laminating it. You may be able to reposition the document or the pouch before attempting to laminate again. These features also make it easier for you to clean and maintain the machine to extend its lifespan.

Availability of supplies

Before you buy a laminator, make sure you can find replacement film rolls or pouches for it. Some manufacturers design their machines so they only take a specific brand of film. Others may be interchangeable, so read the product description carefully. You should also check how much film you receive with the machine. This helps you decide how soon you should buy additional rolls or pouches.