When you want to preserve and protect documents, recipe cards, or craft projects, a laminator is a great tool for the job. A laminator seals your important items inside plastic, preventing them from becoming torn or stained. When shopping for a laminator, it's important to understand the strengths and limitations of the products you see, so you can find the best model for your needs.
We have determined that the best portable laminator you can use at home is the Fellowes Saturn3i 125. It has a fast warm-up time, and it offers both hot and cold laminating technology. The following guide can help you determine the best model for you.
Considerations when choosing laminators
As you're shopping for a laminator, you need to decide which type of sealing technology to use. You have three options.
A hot laminator is the most common type of hardware. It uses plastic film to protect the item being laminated. The machine melts adhesive on the film to seal the item inside the plastic.
The heating process creates a tight seal that will last. However, it can be a little dangerous for children to use without adult supervision.
Hot laminators have warm-up times. The machine must be turned on for up to 10 minutes before it's ready to use.
A cold laminator doesn't use heat to seal the plastic film. Instead, it uses pressure to bond the adhesive on the edges of the plastic film to seal the item inside the plastic.
Also called a pressure-sensitive laminator, a cold laminator will work nicely for delicate documents that could be damaged by heat.
Hot and cold laminator
Some laminators can use either hot or cold laminating techniques. You can select which one to use each time you turn on the laminator, which is handy.
To receive the best value from your laminator purchase, it's important to find a model that matches your needs. Without the right features, you won't use the device as often.
Width: The laminator will have an input slot where you place items to be laminated. Inexpensive devices offer input slots of 4 to 9 inches in width. Mid-range machines will have slots 9 to 13 inches in width. High-end machines may have slots from 13 to 36 inches in width (or even wider).
Gauge: Each machine can handle a certain thickness (or gauge) of the plastic film used in the laminating process. Less expensive machines are limited to 3 mil or 5 mil thicknesses. Higher-quality machines can use 7 mil or 10 mil thicknesses.
Safety: Laminators may have jam releases, auto shut-off features, and double-walled insulation to provide a level of safety for users.
Roll: Some laminators only use rolls of plastic film. Using this type of machine is smart when you need to laminate items of varying sizes.
Pouch: Some laminators only use plastic film pouches. This type of machine isn't quite as versatile as the roll machine, because you have to buy pre-sized pouches.
Laminators have quite a large price range. Simple machines will cost $15 to $40, but they'll have significant limitations and slow warm-up times. Mid-range models cost between $40 and $125. They will work nicely for those needing occasional laminating, and some will have decent performance speeds. For $125 to $300, you can expect versatile machines with short warm-up times.
Q. How safe are laminators?
A. Because some laminators heat up to seal the plastic film, they could cause burns. A cold laminator will be safer to use. However, as long as you use care around the hot laminator, it can be used safely. Just don't allow a child to use the laminator on his or her own.
Q. Can I use a laminator on any type of item?
A. Older and fragile documents or photos could be damaged during laminating, especially if using a hot laminator. A cold laminator may be a better choice for these types of documents. Additionally, you're limited by the size of the laminator's input slot.
Laminators we recommend
Our take: Wide input slot at 12.5 inches, so it can accommodate many different types of items.
What we like: Only requires one minute to warm up for use. Trustworthy machine from a well-known manufacturer.
What we dislike: Cannot work with plastic film thicker than 5 mil.
Best bang for your buck: Scotch Thermal Laminator
Our take: Inexpensive piece of hardware that is portable for on-the-go use.
What we like: Outperforms similarly priced models. Extremely easy to use.
What we dislike: Only has a 9-inch input width. Requires several minutes to warm up for use.
Choice 3: Xyron ezLaminator
Our take: Simple laminator that uses cold technology, so it's safer for kids to use than some other options.
What we like: Low price point. Laminates with a cartridge system instead of loose plastic film, so it's very easy to use.
What we dislike: Seems to be susceptible to jamming if rollers aren't cleaned regularly.
Kyle Schurman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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