Laminating film is offered in a variety of thicknesses, ranging from thin and flexible to thick and rigid. The term “mil” refers to total measurement of plastic and adhesive within one layer of laminating film, expressed in thousandths of an inch (0.001″).
Below is a list of common laminating film thicknesses as well as some examples of their common uses:
- 1.5 Mil (38.1 microns) – This thickness is commonly used in schools because it provides the most economical laminating solution: a large amount of film at a low price point.
- 1.7 Mil (43.2 microns) – Usually offered in professional-grade films, this thickness is used on material that needs to remain highly flexible; for example, map books are often laminated using 1.7 mil film.
- 3 Mil (76.2 microns) – This film thickness is extremely popular since it provides adequate protection for flexible objects that are infrequently handled, such as classroom posters.
- 5 Mil (127 microns) – The best way to describe 5 mil laminating film is to compare it to that of a restaurant menu. This thickness provides a sturdy base for printed material and can withstand moderate usage, yet can still be scored and folded if desired.
- 7 Mil (177.8 microns) – This thickness provides more strength and rigidity than 5 mil film. 7 mil laminating film is a popular thickness for laminating documents that are letter-sized or smaller, such as prayer cards.
- 10 Mil (254 microns) – In terms of thickness, documents laminated with 10 mil film are similar in rigidity to a credit card, and cannot be easily creased or bent. This thickness is extremely durable and can withstand frequent handling, which makes it perfect for projects like identification cards and luggage tags.
- 15 Mil (381 microns) – This thickness is sometimes used for textured, pressure-sensitive laminating film. It is so thick that it can even be used to protect graphics laminated to flooring for special events.
Laminating pouches come in 3, 5, 7, or 10 mil. The mil thickness of the pouch is listed per-side; the total thickness of the pouch is twice as thick as the listed thickness since the pouch is made up of two sheets of pre-cut laminating film sealed together along one edge.
To determine which thickness is the most appropriate for your application, ask yourself the questions below:
How frequently will this item be handled?
Items for temporary use or those that are not handled very often can be laminated using a minimal thickness, while those that are subjected to frequent handling or exposure require a thicker film.
Does this item need to be flexible or stiff?
Thin film like 1.5 mil simply coats documents with a light layer of plastic, allowing the material to retain its flexibility. Because thicker laminating films contain a more substantial layer of plastic, the resulting laminated documents are more rigid.
What are my machine’s capabilities?
Not all laminators are capable of laminating with the full range of available film thicknesses. Be sure to refer to your laminating machine’s specifications or ask an expert – like us! Home-use pouch laminators, like the entry-level models sold by Scotch or GBC, are often limited to using 3 mil and 5 mil laminating sheets. School roll laminators generally use 1.5 and 3 mil laminating film. If you need to laminate using thicker roll laminating film, you will need a more robust laminator.
We’d love to hear what your favorite thickness is for your projects! Or, if your project is not listed above, and you would like a recommendation as to which mil thickness is most suitable, please ask us within the comments section and we’ll give you a solution.