Laminating is an extremely useful way of preserving and protecting photos, documents, and other paper items (or even certain non-paper items), whether for professional or personal reasons. The process involves coating the document or item in question in a plastic sheet, cover, or wrapper. This thin plastic layer keeps the item in mint condition and protects it from rips, bends, and moisture while also affording it a wipe-clean surface.
From cherished vacation photos to ID badges, menus, business cards, scrapbooks, recipe cards, and beyond, there are plenty of situations where a great laminator will come in handy. Odds are that your office or school has at least one on hand, but there are plenty of inexpensive models that are designed for home use. This guide will help you find the perfect laminator for your home and educate you on key factors to consider before making a purchase.
Buying Guide for Laminators
Why buy a laminator?
If you think carefully, there are probably many important documents around your home that would benefit greatly from being laminated. From your kid’s childhood artwork to late relatives’ recipe cards, laminating old documents can help give them new life and preserve them for years to come. Recipe cards are famous for becoming spattered and stained with countless ingredients over the years. If you care to pass on your favorite recipes to your children, wouldn’t it be nice to do it in a way that preserves your unique handwriting, your custom recipe, and the cleanliness of the document itself? High-quality laminators give you a cost-effective way to do this.
What should you look for in a laminator?
- Compatibility: Before you buy a laminator, think about the material and size of the items that you’ll be laminating. Not all laminators work with every size of paper or laminator pouch. Some will work only with standard-sized paper and are thus no good for laminating business cards, for example. Others are made for specific items, like photos. Some work only with paper, and some with non-paper items as well. Basically, some laminators will have a wide range of compatibility, while others will be more limited, so be sure to check that any laminator you buy will work for the papers and items that you’ll need laminated.
- Features: There are some highly useful features and functions you can look for in a laminator that will make the process work more quickly, smoothly, and efficiently for your convenience. While most laminators can only handle one sheet of paper or one item at a time, there are some models that you can feed several pieces of paper into at once. These are very handy for projects that require a high volume of laminated objects. Some are designed to heat up and be ready to use within a few minutes, and others to automatically shut off when inactive for a certain amount of time in order to save energy. Others have anti-jam technology or temperature control in case you have items that you don’t want overheating inside the laminator. Additionally, some come with laminating pouches or covers, so you don’t have to go out and buy your own right away.
- Uses: Some laminators can serve two or three other purposes as well. Many have built-in paper cutters, which might be accompanied by a ruler or graph for measuring more precise cuts. Others work as or come with corner rounders, which might be a useful addition for anyone who likes to create their own photo albums or scrapbooks. Even models that come equipped with built-in hole punchers can be extremely useful, depending on your needs. If you want a little more bang for your buck, look for a device that comes with these bonus features if you think that you can put them to good use.
Are there different types of laminators designed for at-home use?
There are! The main two types of laminators used for homes or home offices are pouch laminators and cold laminators. Pouch laminators are extremely popular for at-home use and work by placing a document in a plastic pouch before feeding it into a pre-heated laminator. Both pouch laminators and their plastic pouches tend to be really inexpensive and effective, but the heat necessary for the lamination process isn’t safe for some extremely delicate documents.
Cold laminators, on the other hand, are a great choice for fragile documents, as they use pressure instead of extreme heat to encase documents into plastic. While cold laminators aren’t all that expensive, cold-press pouches tend to be pretty pricey. However, these machines are ideal for laminating photos or documents with adhesives on them.
If you don’t want to purchase separate laminators for your home, you’re in luck. Many top-tier laminators now sport functionality for both hot (pouch) and cold lamination. However, these premium laminators tend to be more expensive than single-function devices.
Our Picks for the Best Laminators
Fellowes Laminator Saturn3i 125
Featuring both hot and cold laminating and a speedy warm-up period, this is a laminator that scores points both in terms of efficiency and versatility.
Pros: The Saturn3i 125 is one of the speediest laminators on the market, designed for at-home use and providing excellent versatility with both hot and cold lamination settings. This makes it a great option for extremely delicate documents and photos as well as documents that won’t fit into smaller units. While this isn’t a heavy-duty laminator, it’s rugged enough for frequent use, making it a great option for educators in need of a high-quality laminator for their classroom. Most importantly, however, it laminates reliably for great results.
Cons: Since this is a high-quality laminator, it might not be surprising that it sports a premium price tag. Nevertheless, people with infrequent lamination needs (as well as those who don’t see any value in the cold lamination setting) will probably prefer to save money by purchasing a budget-friendly model with less-specialized functionality.
Bottom Line: People who aren’t turned away by this product’s price tag will be very pleased to receive a laminator that’s one of the most reliable and effective products on the market. Due to its large capacity and cold lamination functionality, it’s also a versatile choice that might be perfect for your future needs, even if something smaller and cheaper might seem more attractive at first glance.
You won't have to worry about your items getting stuck and ruined with this laminator and its never-jam technology.
Scotch PRO Thermal Laminator TL906
You won't have to worry about your items getting stuck and ruined with this laminator and its never-jam technology.
Pros: True to its name, the TL906 PRO’s Never Jam Technology does well to prevent jamming as well as the headaches and lost documents that go along with a laminator jam. Additionally, once it’s warmed up, this laminator does its job with impressive speed. This model also scores points for its easy-to-use design and simple touch controls, making it a solid pick for a wide variety of needs.
Cons: While this unit laminates with impressive quickness, the warm-up process can take up to 6 minutes on average, making it one of the slower options out there in terms of speed. Additionally, its 9-inch capacity will work for some but isn’t ideal for those who plan on laminating anything wider than standard document sizes.
Bottom Line: Laminator jams can often mean the loss of precious documents and even your laminator itself, so paying a little extra for a device that prevents them definitely makes sense. While this model is a bit on the pricey side, it outperforms a vast majority of budget models in terms of ease of use and lamination quality, making it a great choice for people who are seeking something that’s ready right out of the box.
Scotch Thermal Laminator TL901X
A slim, compact, modern laminator that is completely safe for photographs.
Pros: A modern upgrade of a classic design, this quintessential laminator is slim and compact enough to fit on your home desk, yet reliable enough to get the job done. Unlike similar budget-friendly models, this unit is safe for laminating photos and great for small projects that won’t require continuous use for more than half an hour at a time. It also has two heated rollers (instead of one) for extra laminating power, which helps ensure a smooth, bubble-free end product.
Cons: Simply put, this isn’t a laminator that you’d want to use for large jobs, so school teachers and others with advanced laminating needs will have to look elsewhere. This laminator also runs hot when used for consecutive jobs and is thus better suited for people who are seeking a budget-friendly model for occasional, light use.
Bottom Line: Considering its low price tag and ability to laminate photos, this is a useful device that will appeal to a lot of people. However, there are many other laminators that can do what this one does, only they will do it more quickly while maintaining their effectiveness for longer periods. Despite the drawbacks, though, very few of those laminators can match this one in terms of affordability.
Eficentline Thermal Laminating Machine
A highly adaptive laminating machine that will work with small and large items alike.
Pros: If you’re unsure of the size of the items that you’ll be needing to laminate, or you want to ensure that you can laminate documents and photos in a variety of different sizes, consider this laminator. It’s compatible with laminating pouches as small as a business card and as large as A3 paper (which is bigger than standard-sized paper) to cover most (if not all) of your home laminating needs. As a bonus, this laminator supports cold lamination and comes with a corner rounder and three different paper trimmers, so you can cut your papers with straight, perforated, or waved edges.
Cons: Although this laminator is safe for prolonged use and for larger projects, it does tend to run a little hot. That being said, if you handle the laminator with care, it shouldn’t be much of a problem. Additionally, the main cutting mechanism isn’t as sharp as it could be, making precise, easy cuts more difficult than those performed on similar models.
Bottom Line: Due to its ability to laminate a wide range of paper sizes and even photos, you can definitely get a lot of use out of this laminator. It also sports enough in terms of nifty features to justify the cost of your investment, although a below-average paper cutter prevents it from being a top-tier device.
Crenova A4 Laminator
This is a great device for laminating small documents, such as recipe cards and playing cards.
Pros: This laminator is especially adept at quickly laminating small items such as gaming cards, index cards, and recipe cards. It also scores points for its lightweight and portable design, making it a great option to take with you to work when the situation warrants it. For its low price, this product undeniably offers a lot of value while being incredibly easy to use for people who have never owned a laminator.
Cons: While the laminator itself works like a dream, the accessories that it arrives with are of below-average quality. Thus, when cutting your perfectly laminated documents or when using the corner rounder for safe edges, you’ll likely struggle to get a clean cut. Additionally, this model doesn’t sport auto-shutoff functionality, so you’ll want to be careful not to leave it on and unattended for prolonged periods of time.
Bottom Line: For the price, there aren’t many laminators out there that are as easy to use or as reliable as this one. That being said, the lack of a key safety feature and some sub-par accessories might incentivize some people to spend a little extra money for a laminator that offers more in terms of safety and performance.
From budget-friendly devices that are great for small projects to more pricey laminators that offer special features and better reliability, there are a lot of options out there. You might even have to compromise on some features in order to end up with a laminator that works for you. Whatever your needs are, a laminator can help protect your important documents and photos from damage, keeping your precious items safe from disaster. If you keep your most important needs in mind when shopping for your new laminator, you’re sure to find a model that you’ll love.