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Lessons in Laminating: Top 5 Tips for Preservation Success

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You know the old adage that you can fix anything with duct tape? I feel the same way about lamination – everything is better once it’s encased in plastic. Think about it: you want to keep that priceless finger painting from getting torn? Laminate it. Need to preserve an old photo? Laminate it. Want to write on something, but still be able to reuse it down the line? You guessed it…laminate it! This attitude has even earned me a nickname among my fellow Out of Office bloggers – Leah the Laminator.

Here at FedEx Office we’ve got DIY lamination machines that you can use in addition to working with the pros behind the counter. But before you go on a laminating spree, which sounds like an awful lot of fun to me, it’s important to know that there are some things that should never, EVER be laminated. Below I’ve listed my top 5 tips for laminating – when to do it, when not to and when to be extra careful. Read on…
1.       Just say no to thermal paper. As the name might imply, thermal paper is activated by heat. Unfortunately, lamination machines also use heat to seal your precious items in plastic. So what happens if you put thermal paper through the laminator? Everything, and I do mean everything, on that paper turns black. The biggest downside to this is that lots of stuff you’d want to laminate is printed on thermal paper. Think airline boarding passesconcert tickets and yes, even sonograms. To avoid erasing priceless memories, or the first pictures of your baby, just say no.
 
2.       Signed and UNsealed. It seems like a great idea to laminate things like birth certificates, marriage licenses and social security cards that need to stay with you for a lifetime. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not illegal to laminate these documents, but it’s also not well advised. Check out this advice from the Social Security Administration and, instead of laminating, keep your documents in a safe, protected place.
3.       Preserving priceless artifacts. Thinking about laminating that old newspaper you found in grandma’s attic? Think again. While the process might preserve your old documents, it will also render them valueless because once something is sealed in plastic, it’s impossible to authenticate. So think twice before you laminate family heirlooms, or your collection of boy band autographs.
4.       Take care with photos and letters. While the lamination process stops yellowing and offers protection, some older documents don’t withstand the process as well as others. The heat can cause wrinkling or even discoloration. Make sure that whatever you’re laminating is in good condition and that the heat setting is not too high.
5.       Flat is best. It’s tempting to laminate art projects with glitter, glued-on pieces or 3D embellishments. But be careful! These “pop-ups” will be flattened as they pass through the machine and will create trapped air bubbles around their borders. The heat can also cause glue to detach and pieces to move around on the page. Along these same lines, if you’re laminating flowers or leaves, it’s important to completely dry them first. Otherwise, condensation will be trapped in bubbles around your creation.
Do you have a unique lamination project or a helpful hint? If so, share it in the comments.

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