A product’s IP rating basically defines the levels of effective sealing a product is equipped with against water, dirt, and other natural or man-made elements.

What is an IP rating?

IP stands for Ingress Protection and the numbers attached to the IP code have specific rating. The first number signifies the range of impact the item can withstand during regular usage. The second digit, on the other hand, denotes protection when exposed to different kinds of moisture and liquids such as water, sprays, drips, submersion, etc. Let’s delve into the details to learn more.

Decoding the IP ratings

As aforementioned, the first digit denotes intrusion protection and the second number signifies safety against moisture.

First Digit – Solids

  • 0 – No unique protection.
  • 1 – Protection from large body parts, like hands and legs.
  • 2 – Safety against fingers or objects not higher than 80mm (length) and 12mm (diameter).
  • 3 – Protection against wires or tools with a 2.5mm diameter or higher.
  • 4 – Safety against rigid bodies that are bigger than 1mm.
  • 5 – Protection from dust that could harm machinery.
  • 6 – Completely dustproof.

Second Digit – Liquids

  • 0 – Zero protection.
  • 1 – Condensation protection.
  • 2 – Protection from water droplets that have a 15-degree vertical deflection.
  • 3 – Protection from spray with 60-degree vertical deflection.
  • 4 – Safety from water sprays.
  • 5 – Safeguard against water jets (low pressure) flowing from all directions.
  • 6 – Security against waves and string water jets.
  • 7 – Protection against non-permanent immersions.
  • 8 – Safety from prolonged immersion effects.

The actual IP numbers or range may vary across products and their typical usage scenarios – the common IP ratings generally are IP65, IP66, IP67 and IP68.

Testing Procedure

Generally, products are tested for their IP ratings by manufacturers in in-house or third-party laboratories that comply with IEC 60529. The objective is to ensure an independent, certified testing procedure.

The testing procedure typically entails examining the equipment’s protection against liquids and/or solid bodies and how well it fares in terms of the manufacturer’s specific waterproofing requirements. The exposure’s effects are then measured and a proper IP rating is given. This procedure would usually take a few weeks after the samples for testing are received.

Products tested for their resilience against liquid will typically have their covers and ports firmly closed. In compliance with IP57 means the item can be kept in freshwater up to a meter for not more than 30 minutes. IP58 means the depth can be increased to 1.5 meters.

Limitations to IP ratings

There are a few interesting things about these tests that are not common knowledge.

  • The ratings don’t indicate the tested product can work when submerged in water within its classified range.
  • Chemical exposure is also not permissible, this can also include salt water, which is why its always best to rinse them with tap water afterwards.

IP Rating Alternatives

IP ratings are pretty much the industry standard, but there’s National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) in the U.S. that also helps classify a product’s protection levels from foreign bodies. In fact, it’s believed the IP standard was created as an alternative to NEMA rating.

IP and NEMA ratings don’t have any direct correlation, since both have a different variable base setup. NEMA ratings are denoted with “Type” and a number ranging from 1 to 13. Similar to IP rating standard, each “Type X” rating indicates specific ingression traits.

NEMA rating isn’t as popular as the IP rating system outside of the States. In fact, most consumer electronic goods with waterproof traits have their ingression traits mentioned in terms of IP ratings.

I hope this has helped you to understand the inner workings of the IP rating system and now you have acquired some not so common knowledge.

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  • glassedsilver

    Thanks! I never bothered to look it up, mostly because usually the mentioning of the IP grading is followed up by an easily understood “can stay in water for xx mins, xx m deep.” anyways. Other times I just kept wondering.

    No more! 🙂

    • Yeah the good brands have an info piece about what the number converts out to, glad you have found it interesting, cheers for stopping by.

  • Niels

    This is a great article – thanks for posting it! To understand the underlying system for IP ratings, the range for first and second digit, and the the ratings’ limitations is very helpful. I frequently come across IP65 or IP66 rated products, and have now a better understanding what this actually means.

    • It was this exact same curiosity that caused me to investigate the topic for this article. It is very simple once you know and hope it comes in handy. It is also interesting to see most phones are not really waterproof, most are rated at 65 and 66 so technically are not submersible.

    • glassedsilver

      I’m also pretty baffled by the limitations. The rating actually doesn’t allow to truly express how water-proof something might be, because the highest rating on this scale is, to be frank, not very thrilling for a lot of devices where you’d expect better. For example a sports/diving camera. Nobody would expect the rating to be very low there, but the fact there is no IP rating that would properly tell it’s fit for use for extended periods of time say in 10-30m deep water is quite a letdown.
      The scale could be so awesome if it allowed for a wider range.

  • Phil

    Great article, thanks!
    Are there even any decent IP68 smartphones though? And Im assuming that the limit of how much pressure (how deep in the water the article is) cant be displayed with the IP standard

    • Yeah exactly, it does not give a real depth limit, just to show that it can handle water for an extended time, we have some lower spec IP68’s but they are not super on the specs, an alternative route, if you have one of the big name phones you can get some IP68 cases, that convert your phone into an IP68 underwater phone.
      Ive tested them before with an iPhone in a swimming pool and they worked ok, just the touch screen didn’t work underwater so we couldn’t use for photos unless we setup the timer.