How IP Ratings Work

We use electronic devices in both working environments and the home. Many devices claim to be “waterproof” or “dustproof,” but such claims can be somewhat vague. What actually constitutes resistance? Does it mean an item can resist a few drops of water? Or can it withstand complete submersion?

That’s where IP ratings come into play, which essentially measures the degree of how resistant a device is to certain environmental elements. Protective cases and vessels include IP ratings and even the newest iPhone. Some ratings are higher than others, but either way, they claim to be waterproof or dustproof to some degree.

Here, we’ll help explain what an IP rating is and how it works.

What Is an IP Rating, and What Does It Measure?

An IP, or Ingress Protection, rating measures and classifies the degree of protection provided by mechanical cases and electrical enclosures against foreign bodies, such as moisture, dust, or other accidental contacts.

It’s often found in the form of a table or chart, constructed by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The chart lists categorical codes, which represent the scale at which the item(s) may be protected.

IP ratings are essentially a more accurate description of saying “waterproof.” This code ensures a precise level of protection against foreign bodies. For example, electrical accessory design for indoor use has a typical minimum requirement of IP2X or IP22.

All electrical devices have an IP rating — even the one in which you’re reading this article. The IP ratings are defined in the international standard, EN 60529, and are used to set the level of sealing effectiveness for electrical enclosures against intrusions from foreign bodies.

The IP rating consists of two digits, each having different protection and level. Combined, these two digits inform you of the level of protection a particular case or vessel ensures. 

Now, you might be wondering why IP ratings are so important.

When a manufacturer requires an IP Rating for their product, they must conduct a test, usually done by an independent and certified company. That company assigns a numerical IP rating or code to the product to signify how efficiently the item protects against solid or liquid intrusion.

This certified IP rating ensures a manufacturer can make confident claims regarding the level of protection their product provides. In other words, it adds authority to their products and ensures the customer that they can find a product that meets their needs.

As a result, having an IP rating also ensures your product’s safety and reduces the risk of injury.

An IP rating guarantees that these ratings protect certain items the same, regardless of which country you reside in. Using an IP rating can help you make an educated decision on the most suitable product for your needs.

IP Rating Charts

An IP rating chart shows what each IP code digit represents. The first digit in the IP rating is the protection against solid objects, which ranges from 0 to 6 and increases from “low” to “high.” The second digit represents the resistance against liquid intrusion, ranging from 0 to 8.

Below, you can see a chart breaking down what each digit in a standard IP code means.

First Digit: Protection Rate Against Solids

  • 0 — No special protection against solids
  • 1 — Protects from a large part of the body, such as the hand, or objects greater than 50 mm in diameter
  • 2 — Fingers or other objects not greater than 80mm in length and 12mm in diameter
  • 3 — Entry by tools, wires, etc. with a diameter of 2.5mm or more
  • 4 — Solid object larger than 1mm
  • 5 — Protection from dust that may damage equipment
  • 6 — The device is completely protected from dust intrusion

Second Digit: Protection Rate Against Moisture Intrusion

  • 0 — No special protection against liquids
  • 1 — Protects against dripping water and condensation
  • 2 — Water droplets deflected up to 15 degrees from vertical
  • 3 — Spray up to 60 degrees from vertical
  • 4 — Protects against water spray from all directions
  • 5 — Low-pressure water jets from all directions
  • 6 — The device is protected against strong water waves and jets
  • 7 — Temporary immersion of the device
  • 8 — Prolonged effects of immersion under pressure
  • 9K — High-temperature, high-pressure steam-cleaning, jet sprays, wash-downs

But how do these two digits work together to make a full rating?

All electrical devices that have an IP rating will have a two-digit rating, as we mentioned earlier. For example, if a device has a rating of IP68, the device will be dust-tight and proceed against prolonged immersion effects under pressure. This example is both dust and water-resistant.

On the other hand, if a device has an IP rating of IP 34, it has protection against larger solid objects and water sprayed from all directions. With this rating, the device would most likely need to be in some sort of enclosure because it’s protection does not cover all objects.

What Are IPX Ratings?

In some cases, you’ll often see an IP rating with an “X,” such as IPX6 or IP4X. The differences between IP and IPX ratings are relatively minute. In fact, an IPX rating is not an entirely valid rating; but it’s still occasionally seen on websites advertising enclosures. 

An IP rating that has an “X” implies that a numerical code has only been given for one of the two main entry types (liquid or solid).

For example, IPX6 indicates a moisture resistance of six, but there’s no assigned numerical value for resistance against liquids. An IP4X rating, on the other hand, means a device has received a four against foreign solids but no certified level of resistance against liquids.

In other words, the “X” simply denotes a number that is missing. Sometimes, the X will be replaced with a zero, indicating that it has no special protection against either solids or liquids. But this may not be the case all the time.

Types of Products with an IP Rating

There are various IP-rated products on the market. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the most common IP ratings you’ll find on the majority of everyday items.

Weatherproof and Waterproof IP Ratings

More often than other products, weatherproof and waterproof IP ratings are among the most common ratings people look for in a wide range of everyday products.

Terms like “waterproof” could mean a whole host of things. Nothing is more frustrating than buying an item that claims to be waterproof only to find out it breaks down after a little splash of water.

Side note – there’s a big difference between waterproof vs. water resistant and other terms.

The second digit in IP ratings is there to clear up such errors. Generally, the higher the rating, the more waterproof an item is. The most waterproof items receive an IP rating of IP65, IP66, or IP67.

However, when it comes to weatherproofing, the highest numerical IP moisture rating doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the most weatherproof.

Rainfall tends to descend close to vertical and under considerably low pressure. For example, a device with an IPX2 rating protects against condensation and dripping water equivalent to 3mm rainfall per minute and deflection of water droplets at angles up to 15 degrees. If you’re looking for a device including resistance to continuous spray up to 60 degrees from vertical, an IPX3 rating is an accurate indication.

IP ratings are also different from fabric waterproof and breathability ratings.

IP Rated Enclosures & Accessories

Let’s dive a little deeper into these IP ratings.

IP-Rated Floor Standing Enclosures

For IP floor-standing enclosures, it’s typical to see ratings of IP43 (aversion to solid objects larger than 1mm and spray up to 60 degrees from vertical). They commonly use these enclosures as heavy-duty protective metal surrounds for items like fragile electronic equipment.

Depending on specific details regarding the item’s construction, they can also have an IP-rating indicating total dust resistance without damage caused by corrosion.

IP-Rated General-Purpose Enclosures

General-purpose enclosures are adaptable storage units designed to house and protect sensitive equipment like electronics. You can most often find them attached to walls by way of specific mounting accessories.

In most cases, they’re rated at IP65 or above, but the rating depends on size, construction, and their intended application and environment.

IP-Rated Handheld Enclosures

Built for controllers and electronic devices, protective handheld enclosures are designed with wireless technology that is made to mount digital or analog LCD display modules. They’re typically constructed with sturdy but lightweight aluminum for portability.

When it comes to IP ratings, handheld enclosures emphasize safety. Any accidental contact with wires is always dangerous, so you’ll often see IP ratings for full protection from water entry (IP65+).

IP-Rated Power Supply Cases

The typical IP rating for power supply cases start at IP20 or above. This rating allows for heat transfer and breathability. It also protects against accidental tool or finger entry to protect users.

Most power supply cases are constructed with durable material, which ensures protection against high-voltage components, such as PSUs (power supply unit), transformers, and other essential electrical pieces.

IP-Rated Instrument Cases

These cases generally come in both heavy-duty and lightweight configurations, depending on the necessary protection and portability. Whether it’s LED power supply casings or desktop electronics, instrument cases are terrific for housing needs.

Instrument cases protect usual electrical devices from dirt, dust, and moisture damage. For these cases, the typical IP rating ranges from IP40 (resistance to minuscule particles only) to IP67 and above (complete immersion resistance).

IP Ratings for Lights

When it comes to lighting, IP takes crucial consideration in home and commercials designs, particularly with kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoor areas.

While lighting systems use standard IP ratings, there are certain “zones” to consider. Zones impact the IP ratings of a given room or area, especially bathrooms.

For outdoor lighting, it’s essential to consider IP ratings as they are important for outdoor lights. Not only does it ensure safety, but also proper functioning of units installed where rain, condensation, or wind-blown foreign objects might pose a potential risk.

Below, we’ve listed some general industry standards for outdoor lighting:

  • IPX3 — Protects against continuous spray at up to a 60° angle, which is considered adequate in partly enclosed or covered areas.
  • IPX4 — Often the minimum rating in exposed spaces.
  • IPX5 — In the case that the lights will be cleaned using high-pressured jets
  • IPX7 — Any lighting intended for immersion (e.g., pond or pool lighting) up to a depth of 1m
  • IPX8 — Complete immersion at greater depths

Lastly, you should always check with the manufacturer or supplier for advice on your installation needs, just to be sure.

IP Ratings for Bathrooms

A bathroom is typically divided into four zones: zero, one, two, and three, or “outside zones.” Below, we’ve listed the regulatory specifications and criteria that laws require for safety purposes.

  • Zone 0 — Area strictly inside a shower or bath. Enclosures and fittings used in this zone must be at least IP67 for full immersion and low voltage.
  • Zone 1 — Area directly above the shower or bath reaching 2.25 m off the floor. This zone requires a minimum of IP45, but IP65 is also used, which they rate most shower lights as.
  • Zone 2 — The area is stretching a 60 cm radius around the shower or bath with a height of 2.25 m from the floor. An IP44 rating is a minimum requirement. It also extends to areas around sink basins, within a 60 cm radius of any taps.
  • Zone 3, or outside zones, are located anywhere outside zones 0, 1, and 2. This zone is used for no jet-use. It contains no special IP requirements, but experts suggest you use an IP rating of IP20 or above.

The Last Drop

The IP rating is an international standard setup for conformity in solid and liquid protection for electrical devices. The IP rating is found on handheld devices and goes up to the industrial electrical enclosure. It’s important to remember that the first number covers protection against solids, and the second number covers protection against liquids. The larger the digit, the greater the protection.