So, you have some papers you want to laminate at home. Do you need to run out and buy a laminator or can you laminate paper without a machine?
While a machine can make lamination easier and quicker, it is possible to laminate paper at home without one. You’ll need some type of thin, transparent plastic — either self-adhesive or self-laminating sheets, synthetic paper or even transparent packing tape can do in a pinch.
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What is Lamination?
Regular paper is usually not very durable. If can easily get wet, torn, or dirty. The advantage of laminating paper is it’s stronger, easy to clean, and more robust. This can be beneficial in a number of cases.
For instance, lamination is great for protecting a paper many people will be handling, papers that need to be easily cleaned, papers left outside that might get wet, or just papers that need to last.
Lamination encases the paper in a thin layer of plastic which will protect and lengthen its longevity.
How to Laminate Paper WITHOUT a Machine
There are three ways that you can laminate paper at home. While all of them can result in a laminated piece of paper, they vary in their required technique and how much patience you will need to pull them off successfully.
Self-Adhesive or Self-Laminating Sheets
This is an easy and quick way to laminate at home without a machine. If you need to laminate frequently, it can be a good idea to stock up on a box or two to have on hand.
The concept is simple. You have two thin, transparent pieces of plastic with adhesives on one side that you sandwich your paper between.
Before you get started, make sure to clear an area large enough to comfortably work. The film tends to stick together easily so you want to make sure you have space to work quickly.
Carefully separate the plastic adhesive from the backing and place the sticky side up. Align the paper you’re wanting to laminate and smooth it down. There are often grid marks to help with the alignment.
Then take a second sheet and place it on top of the sheet of paper, sticky side down. Smooth it carefully to avoid bubbles and wrinkles.
You can trim the plastic edges as needed but otherwise, you’re done!
Laminator pouches are usually used in laminator machines, but you can also use them at home with help from an iron. They look like clear plastic folders but they can be ironed together.
- Open the pouch and place the document in the center (double-check your alignment).
- Place the pouch and document on a flat surface — an ironing board or table will work.
- Put a thin towel over the pouch carefully to protect it and then iron over it with your iron on medium heat.
- Make sure you cover all areas of the pouch for roughly half a minute. The heat melts the plastic layers together and encases your paper.
- Double-check that you’ve covered all the areas with the iron. If needed, you can iron over it again, just make sure you put the towel between the plastic and the iron.
Transparent Package Tape
Need to laminate at home and don’t have any special supplies? If you just have clear packing tape, try this method. It works best for smaller items though with a little patience and steady hands, you can also laminate letter-size sheets with it. It may lack the professional look of the other lamination techniques but it will protect paper.
With this technique, it’s best to use a little extra tape on the sides and trim it down afterward.
- Roll out a strip of tape that’s roughly 1-inch longer than the width you need, sticky side up. If you need to laminate a sheet that’s larger than the tape, roll out several pieces and overlap them slightly to get to the length you need.
- Center your paper over the tape and carefully press down and smooth.
- Repeat the process on the top, carefully overlapping the tape so there’s no bare spots of paper. There should be at least a half-inch of extra tape on all edges.
- Smooth the tape both to the paper and to each other to create a border around the paper.
- Use scissors or a paper trimmer to cut off the excess tape and make the edges smooth and consistent all the way around.
So the answer is yes, you can laminate at home without any special equipment. However, if you laminate frequently, you may want to consider investing in laminator pouches. They’re relatively affordable and infinitely easier on your nerves than trying to carefully align strips of packaging tape.