You’ve surely seen that many products boast that they are waterproof, water resistant, weatherproof, protected against dust and dirt, and more.
You may have waterproof Bluetooth headphones or you may be aware that most smartphones nowadays are waterproof or water resistant to some extent.
While these titles may seem like they all mean the same thing, that is not the case, and the difference between them can be quite big. These titles are called IP ratings.
In this article, you will learn about the differences between various IP ratings and what they mean. Keep reading to find out more!
What is an IP rating?
To compare just how weatherproof or waterproof an item is, there is a scale used to do this. This scale is called the IEC Standard 60529, and it was set in place by the International Electrotechnical Commission. Otherwise, it’s known as an IP rating or IP code.
An IP rating stands for “Ingress Protection” and measures how well protected a device is from liquids and solid objects, thanks to its electrical enclosure.
Here is an example of an IP rating: IP20. It doesn’t look like it makes sense yet, but soon you’ll understand.
Here we have three elements of this IP rating:
First, we have the “IP” part. Secondly we have a “2”, and thirdly we have a “0”. This IP rating does not read “IP twenty.” This IP rating reads “IP two zero.”
In the example, IP20, the number where the 2 is will tell us how well an item is protected from solid objects. The number where the 0 is will tell us how well an item is protected from water and liquids.
The higher the number, the greater amount of protection.
Therefore, IP20 isn’t a very good rating because both the 2 and the 0 are low numbers.
Any random person can’t just put an IP rating on an item and call it good to go. Items that get IP ratings are rigorously tested by a certified company. Companies can’t put IP ratings on products without this extensive testing.
Protection from solids and dust
In an IP rating, the first number ranges from 0 to 6, with 0 providing the least amount of protection against solid objects and dust.
Let’s take a look at what these numbers exactly mean:
- IP0X: The product is not protected against solid objects, dust, or physical contact.
- IP1X: The product is protected only against objects larger than 50 mm in diameter. For reference, 50 mm is equal to 5 cm, so this will be protected from objects smaller than your hand, but it won’t be protected against items around the same size as your finger.
- IP2X: The product is protected against fingers and any object that is smaller than 80 mm in length and 12.5 mm in diameter.
- IP3X: The product is protected against entry by tools and wires, as well as similar devices that are 2.5 mm and larger in diameter.
- IP4X: The product is protected against anything bigger than 1 mm, such as a safety pin.
- IP5X: The product is protected against some dust that will harm the product, but not all.
- IP6X: The product is completely protected against any and all dust. No dust whatsoever can enter the product.
Protection from water and other liquids
In an IP rating, the second digit represents how well protected a product is from water and other liquids.
There are 8 ratings for protection from liquids, with 0 providing the least protection and 8 providing the most protection.
- IPX0: The product is not protected in any special way from water or liquids.
- IPX1: The product is resistant against condensation and water that drips vertically onto it.
- IPX2: The product can resist water and liquid that hits it at an angle of 15° or less.
- IPX3: The product can resist sprays of water from angles of 60° from vertical.
- IPX4: The product is water resistant to sprays and splashes from any direction.
- IPX5: The product can resist a constant low pressure water jet spray from all directions.
- IPX6: The product can resist heavy sprays of water at high pressure levels, as well as waves.
- IPX6K: The product can resist jets of water at extremely high pressure levels. (This IP rating is not especially common and is used rarely).
- IPX7: The product can be submerged in water up to 1 meter deep for no longer than 30 minutes.
- IPX8: The product can be submerged in water greater than 1 meter, potentially for periods of time longer than 30 minutes. (Depth and length of time is usually specified by the manufacturer).
- IPX9K: The product resists high pressure, high temperature sprays of water and/or other liquids at close range. (This is also rarely used and is essentially its own separate waterproofing standard).
IP ratings: understanding an example
Let’s look at a quick example of the IP rating of a real life product and break down exactly what the numbers mean to get some further insight and understand how to read one of these ratings.
Let’s take a look at the new Apple iPhone 12. According to the Apple website, the iPhone 12 has an IP rating of IP68.
This is a very high rating, as both the solid and liquid protection for the IP rating scale tops out at 6 and 8, respectively.
Using the IP rating scale, the first digit (6) means that the iPhone 12 is completely protected against dust, so no dust will get inside the product.
The second digit (8) means that the iPhone 12 can be submerged underwater at levels deeper than 1 meter.
This is specified by Apple; the iPhone 12 can be submerged at a maximum depth of 6 meters for 30 minutes.
Additional terminology explained
While there is this whole scale of IP ratings available to determine how water or dust resistant an item is, there are other terms that get thrown around that can be easily confused with one another.
Let’s take a look at what those terms are.
If something is waterproof, it is impervious to water, meaning no water can get inside the product.
For example, a jacket is waterproof if no water can soak through the outer layer of material.
If a product is water resistant, water can get inside of it temporarily and it will not be damaged.
However, the water will destroy the product if it is submerged for a longer amount of time than specified by its IP rating, as well as if it is submerged in water deeper than what is recommended by the rating.
Many wireless Bluetooth headphones and sport styled earbuds are water resistant to allow for use in the rain or to ensure that the headphones won’t get destroyed by sweat if they are worn while exercising.
Water resistant clothes, for example, will withstand a light sprinkling of rain, but would not be able to withstand a heavy downpour.
If a product is water repellent, the product deters water.
The term “water repellent” actually is a collective term used to describe fabric and clothing that does not get wet easily.
This means that something can be called water repellent and waterproof at the same time, or water repellent and water resistant.
Waterproof and water resistant more so describe the level of water repellency capabilities that a product has.
What makes a product water repellent?
A product being water repellent can be due to a couple different things.
Firstly, a product may be water repellent depending on its material.
If a product is made out of a water resistant material, it will most likely be water resistant to some degree. (IP ratings will pinpoint the extent of water resistance).
Examples of materials that can be water resistant include glass, rubber and latex, Gore-Tex, wool, vinyl, nylon, stainless steel, and aluminum.
Secondly, a product can be water repellent due to the use of a water repellent coating on the product.
This is more so applicable in the case of clothing and other fabric materials like shoes.
This water resistant coating, called a durable water repellent, or DWR, is applied to the fabric during production.
It is important to keep in mind that this coating doesn’t last forever, and it wears off over time from weather and the washing of your clothes, even if the clothes are extremely expensive.
The level of water repellency of clothing is tested using the Hydrostatic Head Test, or HH.
With this test, clothing is pulled tight and a cylinder is placed over the clothing that has had a durable water repellent coating sprayed onto it.
The cylinder is slowly filled with water. The cylinder and clothing are monitored for 24 hours, and what ends up getting measured is how many millimeters of water the fabric can withstand before it gets wet.
The level at which the fabric starts to get wet is its hydrostatic head, measured in mm.
The world of IP ratings seems a bit daunting at first, but if you follow the key provided here, it becomes very easy to understand the various levels of water repellency that manufacturers assign to their products.
Not all products have IP ratings, but now that you are more informed, you will be able to more easily understand the products that do have these ratings, leading you to make better informed purchases.
For more information on everything technology related, be sure to check back with us soon!