Though they might rival the most boring of classroom items, laminators are a necessity for teachers. These tools ensure that documents are protected. If you don’t know it yet, they also preserve student artworks.
It’s no surprise why many teachers don’t buy personal laminators — because a laminator does not work with giant items like posters, but rather ideal for labels, signs, and other smaller things that teachers need to laminate.
I have rounded up a list of the best home laminators for teachers. I’m sure there is one to fit your budget and your needs.
Before making a purchase, you’re most likely wondering where and how to start your hunt for the best home laminator. I got you covered. This post will serve as your shopping guide, product review, and everything else you need to know about home laminators.
Are you in a hurry? Take a peek at the top 3 editor’s choice.
Editor’s choice # 1
AmazonBasics 9-Inch Thermal Laminator Machine
- A 9-inch wide laminator compatible with letter-size, legal-size, photo size and business card size papers
- It has two heat settings: for normal documents like cards and for thinner papers like a lamination film
- Works with any 3-mil or 5-mil laminating pouches to help protect and preserve
- With only 4-minute warm-up time and heat settings with ready indicator light and jam release lever for easy clearing
What are Laminators?
Laminating is primarily a handy way of preserving important documents and papers. Typical items include certificates, report covers, ID and business cards, checklists and safety instructions, photographs, restaurant menus, posters, and signage.
While many other sorts of documents (as well as non-paper items and surfaces) can be laminated, protecting and embellishing key documents for presentation or display purposes tends to be the most common use of technology in everyday scenarios for the majority of homes, schools, and offices everywhere.
In this context, lamination generally involves attaching a fixed plastic wrapper or cover to the item of paperwork in question, generally for the purposes of safeguarding it against damage and ensuring it stays in pristine condition for as long as possible.
The resulting plastic coating around the document can also help to enhance colors and all-round presentation, as well as providing a wipe-clean surface for temporarily marking up the surface using dry-erase pens.
There are lots of different types of laminating machines for sale on today’s market, ranging from small and inexpensive desktop varieties for home and small office use through too much larger and more costly industrial versions. The latter tend to accommodate a wider array of temperature settings and document sizes, and usually feature multiple sets of rollers for helping achieve a flawless finish in more demanding applications.
In broad terms, most laminating machines come in one of three main configurations:
Editor’s choice # 2
click image for details
Scotch Thermal Laminator
- Designed with two roller system with two temperature settings suitable for a professional finish
- You can laminate photos, recipe cards, important or frequently handled documents, arts & crafts, and more
- It laminates items up to 9 inches wide
- This laminating machine has settings for both 3 mil and 5 mil pouches for compact thermal laminating
These machines tend to use two separate layers of laminating film and incorporate the top layer into the laminator mechanism itself.
Items are placed on a bottom layer of film and fed into the machine, where the hot rollers automatically align and press down a separate top layer as the items are being passed through.
This type of laminator is often the most flexible and is generally used in large-scale production environments where many (or bigger format) items need to be processed quickly.
This is the most common form of desktop-type laminating machine you’re likely to encounter in day-to-day scenarios, very widely used for both at-home laminating projects and in a range of standard office environments.
Pouch laminators must be allowed to heat up to optimal temperature before a document is manually fed through inside a clear plastic pouch or wallet lined with adhesive, which is then pressed together under hot rollers to form a sealed cover.
Non-heating versions are also available for handling documents or items that might be sensitive to high temperatures, or easily damaged during the standard hot lamination process.
Examples could include items made with types of vinyl or adhesives, carbon copies, some forms of inkjet printing, and certain types of photographs.
Cold laminators, as the name suggests, use pressure only to seal an adhesive plastic pouch or film around the item being laminated, and are most often configured as small laminating machines for short-run projects or very occasional document preparation.
Cold laminators tend to be cheaper to buy and run, but the pouches used in this type of machine are often considerably more expensive.
Editor’s choice # 3
Fellowes 5736606 Laminator
- A laminator with 12-1/2″ entry width that accommodates multiple document sizes
- Has the advanced InstaHeat Technology that offers a maximum 1-minute warm-up speed you can laminate your docs in 60 seconds
- Comes with ten 3-mil letter-sized and 5-mil thermal pouches compatible with cold laminating pouches
- With auto shut off to save energy and prevents overheating along with a jam-release lever
How do laminators work?
A laminator machine typically uses a combination of heat, pressure and an internal roller mechanism to apply a thin plastic cover to paper documents or other items, In the most common scenario, the paperwork in question is fed into the laminating machine one page at a time, sandwiched in loose plastic sheets or lamination pouches.
In the case of most modern pouch laminators, the plastic cover placed around the document being fed into the machine is pre-coated with a special sort of extruded adhesive on all of its inside surfaces. As the pouch is heated under pressure from the machine’s rollers, it helps to bond the two sides of the pouch tightly together across the front and back surfaces, forming a protective cover and seal around all four sides.
Some higher-end laminating machines will allow the user to adjust settings for temperature and feed-through speeds, which can make the job more efficient and effective when dealing with heavier duty pouches or larger workpieces.
In addition, some machines have the ability to reverse-feed documents that have become misaligned, often using special sensors that can detect misfeeds and perform this reversal function automatically.
As they perform their heating and pressing function, the laminator’s rollers tend to lose some of their heat as it’s transferred directly into the cardboard carrier and the document pouch – this is why you’ll often have to wait a short time between documents, to allow the rollers to come back up to optimal temperature once again before feeding your next document in. However, most modern laminators heat up very quickly, so there isn’t usually a significant delay required between successive feeds.
Types of laminators
Strictly speaking, lamination technically refers to the process of applying a plastic cover to the surface face of a document or other item. Two-sided lamination, where the plastic cover forms a complete seal all around the document on both the front and reverse sides, is more properly known as ‘encapsulation’.
However, most people use ‘laminating’ as a somewhat catch-all term to mean any form of the heat-based plastic coating process, including full sealing of documents in purpose-designed double-sided pouches.
There are numerous types of laminators available for handling different sorts of documents, pouches, and workloads. In this section, we’ll take a brief look at some of the more common varieties found in many homes and offices today, and which sorts might be best suited to which type of production environment.
An A3 laminator is especially useful in environments where large print materials, such as posters or signage, need to be protected and embellished for display. A3 and larger format laminators are often of the thermal film variety, either single or double-sided, as these tend to offer greater flexibility in terms of item orientation, workpiece size, and operating temperature. They’re ideal for producing sealed and protected documents for public display, such as window dressings, public signage, or exhibition graphics.
A4 laminators are by far the most common format found in the majority of homes, offices, schools, and retail environments. They’re particularly widely used for producing report covers, multiple ID or business cards, photomontages, checklists or instruction guides, wipe-clean rotas, menus, and other reusable documents that need to stay looking presentable even in constant handling.
Most A4 desktop laminators tend to be the pouch variety and rely on heated rollers to seal purpose-bought adhesive plastic wallets around the documents in question. More economical varieties usually incorporate a single pair of rollers that pass the paperwork through the laminating machine, while higher-end versions might feature multiple sets of rollers to ensure a cleaner finish with greatly reduced risk of bubbling or misalignment.
Where Are Laminators Most Useful?
The key decisions you’ll need to make when choosing a suitable laminator for office use are what size to go for, and also how often you’ll likely be using it. Both A3 and A4 varieties can come at a wide range of prices and specs, but for the most part, the more expensive versions will offer one very key feature over more cost-effective models: speed.
While the initial investment in a top-of-the-line laminator can be much higher than for a budget brand, it may actually work out saving you money in the long run if you’re not constantly having to wait around for slower laminating processes and ramp-up times, or frequently having to re-run the process due to a higher incidence of misalignments and bubbling that you tend to get with very cheap laminators.
Many models intended for more intensive day-to-day school or office use come with handy time-saving features such as built-in memory functions, meaning you don’t have to reprogramme the machine each time you want to use it.
Again, the key decisions when looking to buy heavy-duty or industrial laminators will generally come down to the degree of flexibility required, and the intensity of use you expect it to undergo. Heavy-duty laminating machines can be built to withstand near-constant use, but you can expect to pay a premium for this sort of durability and consistency of performance.
If you’ll need to laminate multiple items on a daily basis, especially at a high rate per hour, certain higher-end or heavy-duty laminator machines are built to work faster and harder than others, producing superior quality laminations at a much quicker output rate.
Another key consideration will be how long you want your laminated items to last, as this will impact on the type of lamination pouches or films you should buy, and thus ultimately on what sort of machine you’ll need to meet your production demands.
As a teacher, you already know how much it helps the process of learning to get kids involved in creative projects. Lamination can help preserve both their hard work and yours, preventing it from getting destroyed.
A lot of dedicated teachers bring work home with them by trying to come up with ideas for keeping their students engaged. Part of this is making visual aids like maps and flashcards. Instead of buying new supplies to make more and more flashcards when they inevitably wear out, investing in a laminator can help you save money on wasted materials.
Positive reinforcement has been shown to boost student performance and motivation and a laminator is one avenue for this. Having a laminator for your classroom means you can preserve certificates and diplomas that should be cherished forever and help your students feel proud. Both important documents and study materials can be kept safer for longer.
A quick word on laminating photographs: it’s one of the more common intended uses for laminating machines generally, but one that many users tend to be worried about.
While photograph lamination is usually done to help preserve the picture for longer, there’s always a perceived element of risk when you can’t easily replace the photo should anything go wrong. The main point to note when laminating photographs is that, as with all laminating machines, higher roller counts will give you better and more consistent results, with far less chance of misfeed or bubbling.
The most budget-conscious laminators will generally come with two rollers, and these can be somewhat inconsistent – far better to go with four-roller models for documents that matter, and in the case of cherished photographs, six rollers or more is even better. These are generally the more expensive models, but as with so many things, high-end photo laminating machines do tend to confirm the old ‘get what you pay for’ adage.
Also, be conscious of the film or pouch you’re using for the lamination on important photographs. For the best results, you’ll want to use high-quality film that’s relatively newly made and decide beforehand the most appropriate trade-off for you between the thickness and consistency/rigidity. Also, be mindful of the finish you’re looking for – gloss pouches or matte, smooth or textured – and, for really cherished items, always do a practice run on a blank piece of paper first.
The Type of Plastic Film for Laminating Projects
The type of laminating pouch or film you select for any given project will be influenced by various factors. First and foremost, you’ll need to consult your own laminator’s spec sheet to check the minimum and maximum thicknesses of the film it will accept. These values can either be stated in millimeters or microns.
Secondly, you’ll need to know what you want the finished product to look and feel like, and adjust your film/pouch selection accordingly.
10mm pouches: If your laminating machine can accommodate them, will result in an extremely durable document that is difficult to bend and manipulate.
3mm pouches: Conversely, a 3mm pouch will result in a much more lightweight document that’s easier to work with, but also far more bendable and less robustly protected against damage or environmental challenges.
Don’t forget that total lamination thickness will usually be double the rated thickness for a single side of the film or pouch, as most projects will tend to be sealed on both sides.
Finally, bear in mind the finish you’ll want for the application and environment you’ll be using the document in. Gloss pouches, for example, can look sleek and impressive on report covers and certificates but may prove too reflective to be ideal for public signage in brightly lit areas.
How to use a Laminator
All laminators will come with their own specific step-by-step instructions, and these should always be your first port of call when looking for guidance on how to use a laminating machine. However, there are some broad rules of thumb that are fairly universal, and it pays to know the general workflow for laminating prior to inserting your first document.
When using a pouch-style laminator to seal plastic wallets or films together around an item, the document and its pouch are usually assembled first outside the machine. In some cases, these are then placed inside an additional protective cardboard cover, known as a carrier.
On certain models, this carrier adds an important layer of protection between the hot rollers and the plastic surface, which reduces the chances of the plastic pouch bubbling, clouding, or sticking to the rollers as it’s heated. Note, however, that most modern brands of laminating machines no longer require a carrier – it used to be entirely standard, but these days the demand for them is becoming less widespread.
Always check whether the manufacturer of your chosen model recommends a carrier or not, as using them unnecessarily can mean having to perform multiple passes of a single document, when in most cases they ought to require just one. Where they are required, they can sometimes be supplied with the laminating machine itself, but it’s more common to find them included with packs of pouches bought separately.
During the lamination process, the user waits for machine’s rollers to come up to temperature after being switched on and then feeds the document assembled in its pouch – either with or without the cardboard carrier – in through an opening or tray at one side of the machine. As the document passes through the rollers, the plastic pouch around it is heated and pressed together, forming a sealed cover.
Depending on the make and model of laminator you buy, you may find you have to wait a short while between lamination runs so that the rollers can get back up to ideal temperature before the next batch is worked through.
After successfully laminating a document or item, any excess plastic left to form a border around the edges can then be trimmed away once the surface has completely cooled. Never attempt to do this when the item is fresh off the machine, as this can warp or distort the plastic in various ways which will then be very difficult to correct or remove as the sealed pouch hardens.
Ideas for What to Laminate in Your Classroom
With how busy you are and how much you already have to think about as a teacher, ripped flashcards and projects shouldn’t be added to that list. An in-classroom laminator can save you the hassle of hiring someone else to laminate the work that you need to preserve and protect. This will show your students how much you care, along with saving you money and valuable time.
Lamination will keep important school projects and supplies lasting long and looking good for years. It can get time-consuming and expensive though if your school places limits on what you can laminate. For this reason, it’s best to do it right the first time. Which items should you laminate for your class? This list will show you where to start.
Folders for Substitute Teachers: If you’re a teacher, you will need a reliable substitute folder for basic information in your classroom, in case you get sick. To make this, laminate each sheet and put them into a folder or binder. You can also laminate the folder if it fits in your machine.
Bulletin Board Items: Any items that you plan to display on the bulletin board year-round should be laminated. Having different bulletin board accents, cutouts, and letters in various sizes and colors will save you both money and time over the years.
Name Tags for your Students: Some classrooms give students name tags to put on their locker or desk, while other schools require students to wear them. Either way, these tags will get a lot of use and wear out eventually. Laminating them will help them last a lot longer than they would otherwise.
Although these items are good, to begin with on your laminator, they are just the beginning of what will now be possible for your classroom.
Laminator Buying Guide
Whether opting for an inexpensive personal home-use laminator, ideal for small-batch or project-by-project hobbyist use, or a more hardwearing/heavy-duty design intended for heavier office, school or workplace rotation, there is a range of additional considerations and features you’ll need to bear in mind when choosing which type of product or laminating accessories to buy.
Even the best laminators require some basic know-how. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
The cost of a laminator doesn’t include the plastic laminating pouches you’ll need (other than a few that include some samples in the box).
Most laminators work with 3-millimeter and 5-millimeter thick pouches, but if you need to laminate thick or heavy-duty items, you’ll want to get one that can handle 10-mil pouches. Check the machine’s specs before using thicker pouches, or you could damage your machine.
Always take the time to line up your laminating pouch properly before sending it through the machine. Even the best laminators will jam if the pouch is misaligned.
Most personal laminators these days don’t require a special folder to hold the items as older models did. But the rollers can still get dirty occasionally. Clean them by running a plain piece of printer paper through the machine to get rid of any glue that might have accumulated.
12 Best Laminator for Teachers That Will Upgrade Your Documenting Skills
**Disclosure: There are Amazon affiliate links below, meaning that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Here are 12 best laminators for teachers you can find on Amazon. I have included honest reviews to help you in your shopping experience. I hope you will find the best product for your budget and needs.
1. Fellowes Laminator Saturn3i 125
Leading off is not only one of the best laminators for teachers, but also one of the most stylish. Manufactured by Fellowes, its proprietary InstaHeat technology allows it to get ready for lamination within just one minute. It works well with both hot lamination with common pouch sizes and cold lamination using self-adhesive pouches.
The Saturn3i laminator is perfect for classrooms and teachers with its useful energy-saving features that ensure that it never gets overheated. In the event of pouches jamming inside, there’s a useful release lever that can help you get back to work within minutes.
Each package includes a starter pack of ten 3-mil letter-size laminating pouches which should get you going till you need more. This machine is loved for its clean, smooth lamination without vertical impressions or bubbles + near-instant warm up!
2. Scotch Thermal Laminator
From office supply powerhouse Scotch, the Thermal Laminator is designed to work with documents as large as 9 inches in width, so it should work with most school and classroom materials for teachers.
Because of its size, you can easily carry it around and set up conveniently in any space. For your menus, letters, postcards, and other materials, the Scotch Thermal Laminator is up to the task with its fast-warming capacity. This means that you can bring it out from the box and start laminating within a few minutes of plugging it in.
There are also two convenient lines on the bed that help you (and your students) make sure that the laminating pouch is properly aligned before slipping it into the laminator. It comes with two pre-set levels of heat where you can choose between 3 mil sheets or 5 mil sheets when laminating. The Scotch Thermal Laminator has one of the most precise roller systems and few teachers report jamming.
3. Scotch PRO Thermal Laminator
Is the basic version just not cutting it? The PRO version of arguably the best home laminator for teachers has all the features that make it the laminator of choice for a classroom or staffroom. It allows teachers to make professional-grade laminations without stressing over complicated controls. The Scotch PRO Thermal Laminator is equipped with Never Jam technology which guarantees that your lamination always comes out smooth and crisp every time.
It also comes with a folding tray for easy capture of finished laminations, a port for storing the electric cord out of sight, a fast-warming time of around five minutes, and a convenient handle that makes it easy to move from one location to another. The Scotch Pro Laminator can also accept any document up to 9 inches in width making it the perfect addition to your classroom or teacher’s office.