Laminators have become a valuable tool for teachers, office organization, and even for home use. It is quite satisfying to be able to make a smudge proof, coffee proof document in minutes or less. For teachers, laminators offer the opportunity to make creative and durable projects, reusable worksheets, as well as quick dry erase boards. At home, a laminator can be used to make recipe cards that can easily be cleaned after use. Students can make personal, durable flashcards that can go anywhere without worries about tears, crinkles, and coffee stains.
Best Laminators for 2018
Best Overall: Blusmart 3 in 1 laminator
Best Value: Amazon Basics Thermal laminator
Best for Small Office: Daily Use Swingline GBC Thermal laminator
Best for Larger Documents: Business GBC Thermal Roll laminator
Scotch Thermal Laminator, TL901C-T
The Scotch Thermal laminator (TL901SC) is a great laminator for small to medium size documents that do not require heavy duty protection. It comes in a sleek, portable design and has hidden cord storage making it easy to store. It has an indicator light to let you know when it has warmed up and is ready to use. It also has a auto shutoff safety feature.
It is able to handle documents up to 9 inches wide, and pouches from 3 mil to 5 mil thickness. It has 2 settings, 3 mil thickness and 5 mil thickness. It comes with only 2 rollers, so it does not have additional rollers to remove wrinkles, but their lack may not affect projects using thinner pouches.
It is not the fastest laminator out there, but may be enough for your needs. It takes 5 to 7 minutes to warm up.
It is a relatively inexpensive option for those just starting to laminate. It is available for around $30 and often comes in a bundle with a few pouches. You may be able to find it on sale from time to time. It is also a common laminator, available in various stores including Walmart. It has positive reviews on Amazon.
INTEY Thermal Laminator A4
This a great inexpensive laminator with nice features. It works best for small to medium sized documents, and can handle documents up to 9 inches wide. It is compatible with laminating pouches up to 0.02 inches, however, it is ideally used with 3 mil and 5 mil pouches. It has a sleek design and is a newer model, released in 2017.
It may not be the best choice if you are in a hurry, since it takes 3 to 5 minutes to heat up. However, it does come with an indicator light to let you know when it is ready to use. It also has an led light to let you know the power left. To help with paper jams, it comes with a jam release design to allow you to manually remove jammed papers. A nice feature that helps this laminator stand out is the cold option which lets you laminate without heat. This is great for sensitive documents like photos.
This an inexpensive option for home and small office use. It also comes with a pack of laminating pouches for first time use. While this is a great laminator for light use, it isn’t the choice for heavy duty work. It isn’t meant to be used uninterrupted for 3 hours or more and can not hand very wide documents and thicker pouches.
Amazon Basics 13” Thermal Laminator
Amazon released its own thermal laminator in 2017, and it is another affordable option for small office and home use. It stands out from similarly priced laminators with the ability to laminate slightly larger documents. It can handle documents up to 13 inches, making it more versatile than the competitors. Customer reviews indicate that it can be used for foiling gold lettering if it is thick rich black areas, making it even more useful for crafters.
While great for most projects, it does not have a cold function and takes a bit longer to heat up. It also can not handle thicker pouches. The nice sleek design and affordable price may make it a winner for most beginners.
Amazon also has a 9” thermal laminator is probably the most cost effective option.
Blusmart 3 in 1 Blusmart OL288 Laminator
If you are willing to pay a little more, this laminator is a great value for the functionality. It has all the features of the entry model laminators and it also comes with a built-in paper trimmer and corner rounder.
The warm up speed is similar to that of the inexpensive laminators, with 3 to 5 minutes to warm up. It does however have the additional cold laminating feature, making it useful for heat sensitive documents like photos. It is said to produce less noise.
The paper trimmer has 3 different cutting patterns: straight, perforated and wave. It can cut up to 3 sheets at once. The maximum width it can handle is 310 mm. The machine also has a removable corner rounder, allowing you to add a professional finish to projects.
GBC Thermal Roll Laminator
This is a roll laminator which is great for larger projects. It can laminate documents up to 27” wide. It has an EZload feature, simplifying loading of the roll of laminator film. It warms up in 6-9 minutes and can handle film up to 3 mil thick. Despite the slow warming time, once started it laminates documents quickly with a speed of up to 12 feet per minute.
The GBC roll laminator comes with the usual convenience features including auto standby and auto shutoff as well as an indicator light to let you know when it has heated up. This is a heavy duty laminator that works well for larger offices, schools or businesses and for those who need to laminate larger documents frequently. Like many other larger laminators it is quite heavy (116 pounds) and not portable.
This machine is more expensive than the smaller, portable laminators. However, it is more functional and worth the investment for those requiring a heavy duty laminator. It uses laminator film which is often less expensive than lamination pouches, especially when used for larger more complex projects.
Scotch Advanced Thermal Laminator, Extra Wide 13-Inch Input, 1-Minute Warm-up
This portable laminator stands out from the competition with its quick warm up time, and ability to handle documents up to 13 inches. Like many other portable laminators, it comes with a few convenience features including cord storage, auto shut-off and a carry handle. Besides heating up in only 1 minute it also laminates documents relatively quickly at 11.8 inches/min (300 mm/min).
Like many other portable laminators, it works with 3 mil and 5 mil pouches and has 2 rollers. If you need a portable thermal laminator that works quickly this may be the best option for you.
Fellowes Laminator Saturn3i 125
This is another portable laminator that works quickly and is great for those in a hurry. It warms up in 1 minute and works relatively fast. It works with 3 mil and 5 mil pouches and has 2 rollers. It can accommodate documents up to 12.5 inches wide. It also comes with a cold function, allowing you to use it to laminate heat sensitive documents. It has the common convenience features including an indicator light and auto shut off. It also comes with a release lever, so that papers can be re-centered or removed.
Swingline GBC Thermal Laminator
This laminator is great for use with thicker pouches as it can handle up to 10 mil pouches. It accommodates up to 12” wide documents. It also heats up quickly, about 1 minute, and has a fast laminating speed of up to 39” per minute. This is a great option for those interested in crafts, making laminated covers and more durable signs and flashcards.
Laminator project ideas
Teachers: games: play cards, play money, game board, flash cards, dry erase / reusable worksheets, certificates/ diplomasHome use: chore lists, recipe cards, grocery lists, calendars, placemats, photosWork place: signs, posters, name tags, business cards, menus in restaurants, key cardsCrafts: artwork, dried flowers & leaves, bookmarks
What to consider when choosing a laminator
- Laminator Use
For casual use, at home or at school, a less expensive laminator will often get the job done. However, for busy teachers or in a larger workplace, a heavy duty and more expensive laminator will often be the best choice.
- Laminator Type
The two main types of laminators available are pouch laminators and roll laminators. We focus on pouch laminators in our review, however, roll laminators are a great option for large businesses and institutions.
Pouch laminators are great for home use, teachers, and small to medium sized offices. They allow for lamination of documents up to 14 inches. They use plastic pouches, or laminating pouches. You simply place your document in the pouch, then a protective carrier is used to feed the pouch through the machine. Protective carriers provide rigidity and prevent the machine from jamming. However, not all pouch laminators require you to use a protective carrier.
Laminating pouches come in various designs, which can be helpful for making a variety of documents. Slotted pouches are great for ID tags and luggage tags. Matte writable pouches provide a frosted finish making them great for DIY dry erase boards. Cold pouches are great if you only want to laminate a few documents, since they do not require a laminating machine. There are also sticky backed, colored and decorative pouches. Laminating pouches also come in various sizes, from small credit card sized pouches to large 12×17 menu sized pouches.
Roll laminators are often larger machines and are great for larger documents. They use rolls of laminating film, and are excellent for very large posters. If you plan to make only a few posters, it will be more economical to go to your local print shop, as these can be quite expensive.
- Laminator Temperature
Thermal laminators work by heating the adhesive on the laminating pouch as it passes through the machine. Documents made using thermal laminators tend to be more durable. Some thermal laminators allow you to also laminate your document using pressure only, in other words, they have a cold laminating feature.
Cold or pressure laminators work by using pressure to seal the laminating pouch. Cold laminators are best used for sensitive documents such as photos.
Self adhesive laminating sheets can be used to cold laminate a document and do not require you to use a laminating machine. However, you may choose to get a laminator to achieve better quality lamination.
- Laminator Thickness
Laminating thickness determines how durable your document will be. A thicker laminating pouch is recommended for documents that will be frequently handled such as a flashcard or recipe card. Whereas, a thinner pouch may be sufficient for lightly handled documents such as certificates. Not all laminators are able to handle all pouch thicknesses.
Laminating pouches are available in 3 mil to 10 mil thicknesses. 1 mil is equivalent to one-thousandth of an inch, therefore, you can create laminated documents from 0.003” to 0.01.” A very thick, 10 mil laminating pouch will give you a stiff document that can stand up on its own, this may be ideal for display photos and signs. A thinner, 3 mil laminating pouch will be ideal for documents stored in a binder or folder where saving space is a consideration. A 5 mil laminating pouch is often adequate for business cards. You may need to buy a few different pouches to decide which is best for your project.
- Document Size For Laminator
Depending on what projects you wish to use your laminator for, document size, will be an important factor to consider. Most laminators can handle small to medium sized documents such as recipe cards, business cards, and letter size papers. However, for larger documents, a laminator machine with a large entry width will be required. Laminators that use pouches are available in various widths, from 4 inches to 14 inches. For very large documents and posters, a professional laminator may be necessary. Very large 80 inch wide format laminators are available for commercial use.
- Laminating Speed
Speed will be a critical factor if you plan to laminate larger quantities. With thermal laminators, the time it takes the machine to heat up will determine how quickly you can get a project done. Cold laminators don’t need to warm up, but may not be ideal for every project. The laminating speed of the machine is also important. If you need to get your documents laminated quickly, look for a laminator that heats up and runs through the document quickly.
- Laminating Quality
The number of rollers in a laminator help determine the quality of the document produced. Most machines come with two rollers which work to press the two ends of the pouch together creating a seal. Some machines have a second pair of rollers that remove wrinkles allowing for a smooth finish.
The ideal laminator is one that is quiet, appeals to your aesthetics, and takes up little space on your work surface.
Laminator cleaning sheets