The Best Laminating Machines of 2022

Use a laminating machine to help protect and preserve memorabilia, crafts, important documents, and more.

By Deirdre Mundorf and Savannah Sher | Updated Mar 1, 2022 3:47 PM

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The Best Laminating Machine

Photo: amazon.com

By encasing important items in plastic, laminating machines, or “laminators,” can preserve important items. Many people laminate documents with these nifty machines to protect them from tearing or fading over time, create makeshift dry-erase checklists or grocery lists, press flowers, or preserve family photos, among other tasks.

It sounds like a simple process, as the machines use heated rollers to melt glue onto lamination film. However, there are variations among the laminators on the market, so it’s important to know how to select the right one for your specific needs.

If you’re unsure of what to look for, finding the best laminating machine can pose a challenge. In addition to offering a list of high-quality product suggestions, this guide is designed to help you understand what to look for to find a top-notch laminating machine.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Fellowes Laminator Venus Laminating Machine
  2. BEST BUDGET: Scotch Thermal Laminator Plus
  3. BEST SMALL: Swingline GBC Laminator Thermal Inspire Plus
  4. BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Fellowes Saturn 3i 125 Paper Laminator
  5. BEST FOR SCHOOLS: GBC Thermal Roll Laminator
  6. BEST HOT: Bomaker ABOX Laminating Machine 13” Thermal Laminator
  7. BEST COLD: Swingline Laminator, Thermal, Inspire Plus 12 Inches
  8. MOST VERSATILE: Crenova A4 Laminator 4 in 1 Thermal
The Best Laminating Machine Option

Photo: amazon.com

Types of Laminating Machines

Before looking for a laminating machine, decide whether a hot laminating machine or a cold laminating machine will be better for your needs. Each type has pros and cons.

Hot

As the name implies, hot laminators use heat to melt the adhesive material on laminating pouches or film. When the adhesive melts, both sides of the pouch or film adhere to each other, encasing the item to be preserved. Hot laminating machines offer a quick and easy way to protect documents and often produce a more durable finished product.

However, hot laminator machines aren’t exactly user-friendly; it can take some time to learn how to use a hot laminator to deliver flawless results. They also start slowly and require a lot of heat to work properly. If they’re used incorrectly, users can burn themselves.

Cold

Instead of heat, cold laminators use pressure to thoroughly seal the adhesive onto a laminating pouch. Unlike the laminating pouches used with hot laminators, heat is not required to seal the pouches for a cold machine. The laminator helps remove air bubbles and creases to create an attractive finished product.

Cold laminating machines are usually less expensive and easier to use than hot laminators. Moreover, cold laminating machines can laminate one or both sides of an item, a useful function when making decorations or decals. However, items laminated with a cold laminator may not be as durable as those laminated with a hot laminator.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Laminating Machine

Once you’ve decided on the type of laminator, there are a few shopping considerations to think over as well. Each laminator offers different features, and understanding each feature is essential in selecting a model that will deliver the desired results.

Design

Laminating machines come in two different styles: pouch and roll. Pouch laminators seal specific-sized laminating pouches, while roll laminators work with two rolls of laminating film.

Laminating pouches are sized for business cards, photos, letters, legal papers, and more. If an item is not a standard size, trim off the excess material after laminating it. When using a pouch laminator, each item must be placed into the pouch and fed through the machine one at a time; as a result, pouch laminators don’t work as quickly as roll laminators. However, they’re relatively inexpensive and more compact than roll laminators.

Roll laminators are best suited for schools or offices. These machines are wider than pouch laminators, can laminate more than one item at a time, and have two rolls of laminating film.

One layer of the film sits under the item being laminated, while the other layer sits on top. As an item is fed through the laminator, the heat causes the layers of film to adhere to one another. Roll laminators are more expensive than pouch laminators and require a large amount of space; a roll laminator can’t easily be placed in a drawer or on a shelf when not in use.

Number of Rollers

Before purchasing a new laminator, also determine the number of rollers needed. Laminators with more rollers distribute heat better, which helps to melt the adhesive. The more rollers the laminator has, the more pressure is applied to the item being laminated, which results in a tighter seal with fewer air bubbles or wrinkles.

Most laminating machines have two, four, or six rollers, though some may have more. If choosing a machine for personal use, two to four rollers may be sufficient. However, for a school or workplace, a model with a minimum of six rollers may be best.

Heating Time

Like an iron or hair straightener, hot laminators need time to heat up. The length of time it takes a laminating machine to get hot varies by model. Before making a purchase, find out how long it takes for each model to be ready to use. A product with a short heating time may better suit some users’ needs.

Laminating Speed

Consider the laminating speed of each of the various models. If laminating multiple items at the same time, a faster model helps complete the task more quickly. Some roll laminators also offer adjustable speed settings. Slower laminating speeds can be helpful when laminating multiple smaller items.

Versatility 

Finally, consider the versatility of each laminating machine. If it’s a pouch laminator, determine if it can be used with pouches of different thicknesses or if it’s compatible with only one size.

Also consider how many different types of items the machine can laminate. Some laminators can only laminate paper items, while other models may work with slightly thicker items, such as flowers, fabric, or leaves.

Our Top Picks

After extensive research that involved considering the features outlined above and evaluating high-quality products made by trusted manufacturers, this list of top picks was created. The following products represent some of the best laminating machines for a variety of purposes.

Best Overall

The Best Laminating Machine Option: Fellowes Laminator Venus Laminating Machine
Photo: amazon.com

Using InstaHeat Technology, the Fellowes Venus Laminator takes just 30 to 60 seconds to warm up, and it can laminate up to 31 inches per minute.

While most personal laminators have only a two- or four-roller system, this Fellowes laminator utilizes a six-roller system to ensure each item comes out properly sealed and bubble-free. It can be used with hot or cold pouches up to 10 mils thick. This laminator also has an AutoSense system that automatically adjusts the lamination setting based on the thickness of the pouch.

Product Specs

  • Maximum Width: 12.5 inches
  • Warm-Up Time: 30 to 60 seconds
  • Speed: 31 inches per minute

Pros

  • Lamination settings are automatically adjusted
  • 6-roller system
  • Compatible with hot or cold pouches
  • Works quickly

Cons

  • High price point

Best Budget

The Best Laminating Machine Option: Scotch Thermal Laminator Plus
Photo: walmart.com

Weighing just 1 pound, Scotch’s Thermal Laminator can be ideal for those looking for a laminator that’s lightweight and easily portable. It can laminate pouches that are 3 or 5 mils thick and it has a 9-inch-wide slot.

This model uses a two-roller system to evenly distribute heat and remove creases and air bubbles from the items being laminated. It’s warmed up and ready for use after 5 to 8 minutes. Choose between two heat settings for different lamination needs.

Product Specs

  • Maximum Width: 9 inches
  • Warm-Up Time: 5 to 8 minutes
  • Speed: 47 seconds to laminate a letter-sized pouch

Pros

  • Lightweight design
  • Affordable price
  • 2 heat settings

Cons

  • Slow heat-up time

Best Small

The Best Laminating Machine Option: Swingline Laminator, Thermal
Photo: amazon.com

Measuring just 10.98 by 11.73 by 13.19 inches, this lamination machine is small enough to fit in even the most compact offices. It can laminate documents with widths as large as 9 inches. It takes 4 minutes to heat up, and a red indicator light lets users know when it’s ready to use.

Since there’s only a single power setting, this model is user-friendly and easy to use, adjusting automatically for parcels of different thicknesses. One downside, however, is that it works relatively slowly compared with some higher-end models, laminating just 9 inches of paper per minute.

Product Specs

  • Maximum Width: 9 inches
  • Warm-Up Time: 4 minutes
  • Speed: 9 inches per minute

Pros

  • Affordable price point
  • Compact design
  • Includes cold operation setting
  • Features jam release lever

Cons

  • Slow operational speed

Best Heavy-Duty

The Best Laminating Machine Option: Fellowes 5736606 Laminator Saturn3i 125
Photo: walmart.com

Laminate documents that are up to 12.5 inches wide with the Fellowes Saturn 3i Laminator. This model can accommodate 3-mil and 5-mil hot lamination pouches as well as self-adhesive cold lamination pouches. Its maximum speed is 12 inches per minute.

Whereas other laminating machines may take up to 5 minutes to be ready to use, this model uses InstaHeat Technology, which means it needs just a minute to warm up. Once it’s ready to use, a green light accompanied by a beep alerts users. To conserve energy and prevent the machine from overheating, this laminator machine automatically shuts off when not in use. It also comes with 10 sample laminating pouches to help users get started.

Product Specs

  • Maximum Width: 12.5 inches
  • Warm-Up Time: Up to 1 minute
  • Speed: 12 inches per minute

Pros

  • Auto shut-off function
  • Includes 10 sample laminating pouches
  • Heats up in under a minute

Cons

  • Not compatible with thick pouches

Best for Schools

The Best Laminating Machine Option: GBC Thermal Roll Laminator
Photo: amazon.com

The GBC Thermal Roll Laminator can help teachers and other professionals quickly laminate a large stack of papers, posters, decals, and more. It can laminate up to 120 inches per minute and has a wide 27-inch opening to accommodate larger items. It features alignment guides to help users keep their documents straight as they feed them through. The AutoSpeed feature adjusts the speed to the ideal level based on the type of document being laminated.

A 10-minute warm-up time gets this laminator machine hot and ready for use. Use it with lamination films up to 3 mils thick. Front and back buttons allow users to stop the laminator to prevent wasting film. It also has an auto shut-off feature and a protective shield to help prevent accidental injuries.

Product Specs

  • Maximum Width: 27 inches
  • Warm-Up Time: 10 minute
  • Speed: 120 inches per minute

Pros

  • Ultra-fast lamination speed
  • Wide opening
  • Includes auto shutoff and other safety features

Cons

  • Very high price point
  • Long warm-up time

Best Hot

The Best Laminating Machine Option: Bomaker ABOX Laminating Machine 13 Thermal Laminator
Photo: walmart.com

If you’re looking for a hot laminating machine, consider the ABOX thermal laminator. The machine’s bubble heating system and aluminum thermal conductivity pipe work together to evenly heat lamination pouches. Additionally, the machine’s motor and two rollers help deliver consistent results, providing wrinkle- and bubble-free finished products.

This machine can laminate paper up to 13 inches wide. It takes 3 to 5 minutes to heat up and has a maximum lamination speed of 9.8 inches per minute. This laminator machine operates quietly in the background and won’t easily disturb others. An attached paper cutter can cut eight sheets of paper at a time, and a corner rounder is included.

Product Specs

  • Maximum Width: 13 inches
  • Warm-Up Time: 3 to 5 minutes
  • Speed: 9.8 inches per minute

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Operates quietly
  • Includes paper cutter

Cons

  • Slow operation speed

Best Cold

The Best Laminating Machine Option: Swingline GBC Laminator Thermal Inspire Plus
Photo: amazon.com

Swingline’s personal-use thermal laminator offers both hot and cold lamination for documents up to 12 inches wide. Switching between the two heat settings is as easy as flipping a switch from one side to the other.

The versatile thermal laminating machine has a single power setting, and it will automatically adjust to the thickness of the pouch being fed through it. It can be used with 3-mil and 5-mil laminating pouches and can laminate up to 10 inches per minute.

The laminator gets hot in just 4 minutes. An indicator light lets the user know when it’s ready to use. If the laminator happens to jam, use the jam release lever to remove the pouches and documents.

Product Specs

  • Maximum Width: 12 inches
  • Warm-Up Time: 4 minutes
  • Speed: 10 inches per minute

Pros

  • Features both hot and cold lamination
  • Automatically adjusts for parcel thickness
  • Includes jam-release function

Cons

  • Slow operating speed

Most Versatile

The Best Laminating Machine Option: Crenova A4 Laminator 4 in 1 Thermal
Photo: amazon.com

This thermal laminator from Crenova comes with a portable cutter, an edge rounder, a hole punch, and three binder rings, as well as 50 laminating packages, so users are equipped with everything they need to start preserving and organizing their documents. The pouches come in a variety of sizes, adding to this laminator’s versatility.

It takes between 3 and 5 minutes to warm up and can laminate 9.8 inches of paper per minute, for a total of 50 A4 sheets per hour. A jam-release function allows users to safely extract pouches if they become stuck.

Product Specs

  • Maximum Width: 9 inches
  • Warm-Up Time: 3 to 5 minutes
  • Speed: 9.8 inches per minute

Pros

  • Affordable price point
  • Includes 50 laminating packages

Cons

  • Slow operating speed

Our Verdict

After we reviewed many different laminating machines and considered the typical uses for many at-home laminating needs, the Fellowes laminating machine is our top pick for quick heating time, fast speed, and 12.5-inch maximum document width. However, those on a budget may appreciate the Scotch laminating machine, which offers great performance at a lower price point.

How We Chose the Best Laminating Machines

Years of experience covering home and office products as well as extensive product research went into creating this guide. We explored more than 25 laminating machine options and weighed a number of practical considerations before making our recommendations.

One of the specs that differs from machine to machine is maximum paper width. We included a variety of options for those who need to laminate small household documents as well as larger posters and display items. Two important factors to consider when choosing a laminating machine are warm-up speed and laminating speed.

We gave preference to models that are ready to use in just a few minutes and operate at speeds of at least 9 inches per minute. Laminating machines vary in price, with some professional models costing thousands of dollars. We aimed to ensure that everything we included in our recommendations offered excellent value based on the price.

Tips for Using a Laminating Machine

Choosing the right laminating machine is just the first step when it comes to ensuring documents are properly laminated. The following tips will help ensure that everything you laminate will be safely preserved for years to come.

  • Be sure to carefully center the item you’re laminating within the pouch.
  • Check that you’re using the right pouch size; there should be at least 3 millimeters of laminating material around the edges of the item.
  • Prevent air bubbles by ensuring the temperature of the machine is high enough.
  • Before laminating items that have great monetary or sentimental value, do a test run with an object of a similar size and shape.
  • Never laminate an empty pouch.

FAQs

A few frequently asked questions about laminating machines follow. If any questions remain as to which product is the best laminating machine for you, the answers to these questions may provide some needed guidance.

Q: What’s the difference between a hot and cold laminating machine?

Hot laminators use heat to seal thermal laminator film or pouches. The heat melts the glue on the plastic, sealing in the item being laminated. Cold laminators remove the wrinkles or bubbles from cold laminating pouches.

One difference between a thermal laminating pouch and a cold laminating pouch is that cold laminating pouches are self-adhesive. Technically, they don’t need lamination to seal; however, without a cold laminator, air bubbles or creases will likely be present.

Q: Is the number of rollers really that important when choosing a laminating machine?

Yes, the number of rollers in a laminating machine is an important feature. Laminators with more rollers distribute additional heat and pressure to evenly and securely seal the items being laminated.

Q: What pouch thickness do I need for laminating?

The best pouch thickness varies, depending on what you’re laminating and your preferences. The thickness of a pouch is measured in mils. Some common thicknesses include 1.5, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 10 mils. Pouches with a lower thickness are more flexible, and those with a high thickness are more rigid.

Q: Should I cut before or after laminating?

It’s always best to cut documents before laminating them in order to ensure a completely sealed edge around the paper.

Q: Can you re-laminate existing laminated items?

Yes. If an older laminated document is peeling, you can re-laminate it without causing any damage.

Q: How much does a laminating machine cost?

Laminating machines vary widely in price, costing from $25 for simple home models to more than $1,000 for professional machines.