A Complete Guide to IP Rating

You may be unfamiliar with the term IP rating, but you will come into contact with IP-rated electronic products or daily necessities in your life. Therefore, this article will help you understand what an IP rating is and explore the meaning of the IP plus numbers marked on a product.

What Is The Meaning of IP Rating?

IP rating is a level standard that prevents solid or liquid intrusion. In 1976, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) formulated the international standard IEC 60529 for IP levels (British BS EN 60529:1992, European IEC 60509:1989). Later, this IP level slowly spread throughout the world. In 2004, the United States also adopted this IP level. IP rating is more than just a number, it gives a product rich meaning.

figure 1 What Is The Meaning of IP Rating

What do The Numbers in An IP Rating Mean?

The IP rating is usually followed by two numbers. The first number represents protection against solid particles such as dust and dirt. The range is 0 to 6. 0 represents the lowest protection level and 6 represents the highest protection level. The higher the number, the higher the protection level. 

The second number represents the protection against liquids, ranging from 0 to 8. Like the first number, 0 represents the lowest level of protection and 8 represents the highest level of protection. The larger the number, the higher the level of protection.

Conventional grade testing includes IP23, IP44, IP54, IP55, IP65, IP66, IP67, and IP68 grades. It is currently recognized that IP68 is the highest waterproof and dustproof level.

IP Rating Reference Chart

Please refer to the following table for the meaning of the numbers after the IP grade.

figure 2 IP Rating Reference Chart

Each level has a waterproof test. The purpose and experimental conditions of different levels of testing are different. The level of difficulty increases from low to high to demonstrate the level of waterproofing.

The IPX1 test is called the vertical drip test, and the IPX2 test is called the 15° tilted drip test. Both levels are dripping waterproof tests and are suitable for light waterproof tests.

Both IPX3 and IPX4 are tested through swing-tube and sprinkler-type rain tests, and the samples are tested under different test pressures, test times, and test conditions. These two levels are suitable for moderate water resistance testing.

Both IPX5 and IPX6 are relatively high-intensity water spray tests. IPX6 has higher requirements than IPX5 and is an experiment in a strong water spray state. IPX7 conducts a short-term immersion test through the test time and the length of the immersion tank. 

The IPX8 continuous diving test can be carried out through consultation between the customer and the manufacturer on the test conditions. Both levels are immersion pressure tests.

IPX9 performs high-pressure spray tests on samples at different angles through water flow, test time, water temperature and pressure.

Why Is An IP Rating Important?

The IP Rating marked on an item means that it has been certified by an official professional organization. The IP rating can quickly determine the applicable environment of the item, allowing users to quickly understand the level of protection the item can provide and determine whether the product meets their needs.

All in all, IP Rating effectively tells users that the product has been professionally certified and can be used in a suitable environment with confidence, improving the overall safety and applicability of users and products.

Types of IP Rated Products

Products in various industries can undergo protection testing to determine their IP rating, allowing users to understand the product’s level of protection against solids and liquids.

For electronic products such as smartphones, computers, headphones, and cameras, it is particularly important to have a high IP rating for many products that are often used outdoors. Especially some smart watches or sports bracelets worn during sports and fitness require frequent contact with sweat or water. For these devices, ip rating is usually the highest waterproof level.

There are also some outdoor equipment or electronic accessories such as outdoor lighting fixtures, speakers, cameras, push button switches, etc., and even some accessories used in transportation, such as car lights, wiper motors, engines, etc., all need to withstand the influence of the natural environment, such as dust in the air or rainwater. These products have certain IP rating requirements.

In industrial environments or at the seaside, they have to withstand the effects of dust, water, and even chemical pollution, so IP levels are also very necessary, such as machine tools, measurement and control instruments, etc.

Testing and certifying the IP rating of instruments and equipment required in the laboratory or operating room is key to ensuring the safe operation of these specific equipment and systems. If the equipment does not have this kind of IP protection, it may be invaded by air humidity, moisture, and chemical components, causing the equipment to short-circuit and fail to operate normally. Therefore, these products need to have IP-level certification, such as biological safety cabinets, chemical analyzers, microscopes, etc., such as operating room monitors, cardiac erectile devices, defibrillators, etc.

All in all, the IP rating marked on the product is more helpful for users to judge the environment in which the product can be used. Users can make better decisions and products can maximize their performance.

figure 3 Types of IP Rated Products

Which Environments Are Suitable for Different IP Ratings?

Different IP levels have different defense capabilities, so the applicable environment can also be adjusted according to different IP levels. The following introduces the different environments that different IP levels can adapt to:

Those below IP44 can only be used indoors, IP44 to IP65 can be used indoors or outdoors, but attention should be paid to limiting exposure when used outdoors, and IP55 to IP65 can be suitable for use in outdoor environments with moderate dust exposure or water spray.

IP66 to IP68 ratings are suitable for use in harsh outdoor environments. At this point, they are already protected against dust and the impact of high-pressure water jets. The highest rating, IP68, even protects against the effects of long-term immersion in water.

In short, products used in different environments must first confirm whether they meet the IP rating. In addition to the effects of solid and liquid intrusion, chemical attack, temperature effects, impact forces, etc. must also be considered to ensure that the product maximizes its value and extends its service life.

figure 4 Which Environments Are Suitable for Different IP Ratings

What If A Product doesn’t Have An IP Rating?

For some products that need to consider protection, whether there is an IP rating is a very important issue. In some cases, products do not have an IP rating.

1. The product does not need to be waterproof or dustproof, so IP certification is not required.

2. The products have not been certified by professional organizations and have not been tested. There are problems with its usage environment, and product quality cannot be guaranteed.

If you do encounter a product without an IP rating, be sure to pay attention to the following:

First check the instruction manual, user manual and other information. Generally, there will be relevant instructions such as restrictions and usage environment. Then you can also view the product warranty card and liability terms. The environment that causes problems with the product and voids the warranty is generally a usage environment that the product cannot withstand.

Secondly, you can contact the manufacturer and they can provide some specific data, such as waterproof and dustproof effect, product life, etc.

After you get the product, you can also test it to evaluate its ability to defend against solid liquids. You can also provide additional protective cases or covers to achieve the appropriate IP rating.

figure 5 What If A Product doesn’t Have An IP Rating


What is the difference between IP rating and NEMA rating?

IP rating focuses on the waterproof and dustproof characteristics and different levels of the item. NEMA RATING must not only consider the above two points but also consider the oil tight, corrosion resistance, explosion protection and other characteristics of the item.

What is a good IP rating?

This depends on your product application. This is not absolute. The higher the IP level, the cost of the production process will definitely be relatively higher.

What IP rating is waterproof?

Usually we think that anything above IP44 is waterproof. But in practical applications, IP65 or above is the best waterproof and can better protect the product.

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