Heat Seal vs Heat Free Laminators

By Nicole Tinkham


Laminators are great to have in the office. Laminating not only protects important documents but also enhances color in photos and presentations. When purchasing a laminator, you may be overwhelmed and unsure of where to begin. Should you go with a heat seal or a heat-free laminator? This blog is designed to help you weed through your options and find the perfect laminator for your office!


Instead of going with the typical document size (max width of 9”) laminator, consider the other sizes available as well.

PHOTO: Max width of 4” – Perfect for photos, badges, business cards, etc.

DOCUMENT: Max width of 9” – Laminates standard sized paper (letter and legal).

WIDE FORMAT: Max width of 13” – Able to laminate calendar pages, menus, and other large documents.

EXTRA WIDE FORMAT: Max width of 27” – Ideal for banners and signs.

If you ONLY plan on laminating small documents, a smaller photo laminator will work fine. We suggest a larger format though, just in case a large document needs laminating.


Here’s where the big decision comes into play. Not all laminators are the same – there are heat, heat-free, roll, and pouch laminators available and each work a different way. Let’s take a look at how these laminators differ so you can make an informed purchase decision.

HEAT SEAL: These laminators use heat to activate an adhesive that seals the laminate.

Is it for you?
These provide a durable lamination ideal for documents that need a resistance to wear and tear. Heat-sensitive items should not be used with these laminators unless the laminator has a cold setting.

You will find numerous heat laminators in the following brands:

HEAT-FREE: Instead of heat, these use pressure to seal the laminate.

Is it for you?
Use this type of laminator for heat-sensitive documents like photos. Heat-free laminators are safe, making them perfect for classroom use.

ROLL: Roll laminators use rolls of film as opposed to pouches.

Is it for you?
These are ideal for laminating documents with various lengths and widths. They also allow for a continuous feed which speeds up laminating time, perfect for high volume projects. These are usually used in small print shops or educational environments.

POUCH: Unlike roll laminators, these use a laminating pouch that is closed on at least one side.

Is it for you?
These are great for home and office use. There are also self-sealing pouches that do not require a laminator. These are photo safe and easy to use!


Another option you will notice when making your purchase is strength. This is measured by the mil and determines how strong the lamination will be.

STANDARD: The standard gauge is 3 mil. Use this strength for occasional handling and filing purposes.

MEDIUM: Medium gauge, or 5 mil., is designed for moderate handling and filing like legal files and recipe cards.

RIGID: The 7 mil gauge is ideal for daily handling and filing for items like ID tags.

EXTRA-RIGID: This 10 mil is perfect for intensive daily handling and filing for items like reference documents, posters, and signs.

Strength is also something to look at when purchasing laminating pouches. Each laminator will have a maximum thickness so it’s important to use pouches that are suited for your laminator.

Also consider..

JAM-FREE: Prevents jams.

FAST WARM-UP: Quickly heats up for quicker laminating.

AUTO SHUT-OFF: Prevents overheating.

HEATGUARD: Keeps heat inside so machine is cool to the touch.

While there may be several considerations when purchasing a laminator, the decision process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Think about what you plan on using the laminator for. What size documents will you laminate? How often will the laminator be in use? What kind of wear and tear will the laminated items be going through? Ask yourself these questions and use this post to guide you to the perfect laminator for your office! Feel free to give us a call (941-747-2995) or stop in for recommended laminators!

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