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Manufacturers can play some dirty games when it comes to calling something waterproof or water-resistant. What exactly do these things mean? Can your device be submerged, or just used in the rain? Can you take it snorkeling or swimming with you?
Luckily, IPX standards solve this problem for consumers. What is an IPX* waterproof rating? IPX waterproof ratings layout standards for devices. They specify what sort of testing manufacturers have to do to get IPX certification, and they tell the consumer just how waterproof their devices are.
But there’s more than meets the eye to IP ratings. They not only tell us about how protected our devices are against water, but they also indicate how dust-proof they are. This information is essential to know when taking electronics into harsh environments outdoors.
The IPX standards are an important part of the shopping process when looking for new gadgets. Cell phones are now often IPX rated, as well as many of the other electronic devices you might use outdoors. Think about the flashlights, cameras, and satellite messengers you might take along on your next adventure. How well will they hold up to a little rain, or if you drop your pack crossing a stream?
What is an IP Rating?
IP stands for ingress protection. It is a measure of how protected a device is from the environment. The two main problems for electronic devices are particulates and moisture. The two digits following the “IP” indicate how well protected a device is. The higher the numbers, the more protection it has.
The first digit is how protected it is from solids, like dust. The second digit is how protected it is from water ingress. For example, an item rated at IP68 is sealed against dust, and it can be submerged underwater.
What is an IPX Rating?
Sometimes, a device isn’t rated to be protected from solid matter, but it is rated against water ingress. In this case, the first digit is replaced by the letter X. Therefore, IPX ratings don’t tell you anything about how protected your device may be from particles. Chances are, it’s not protected from them at all.
Alternatively, a designation like IP6X means that an item has complete protection against dust and particles, but no protection against water intrusion.
IP Rating System Code Breakdown
IP for Liquid Ingress (Water) Protection
|IP Designation||Protection From||Tested By||Test Parameters|
|IPX 0||No protection||N/A||N/A|
|IPX 1||Drips||Protection from dripping liquids, like sweat or light rain||Equivalent to 1 mm of rain per minute for 10 minutes|
|IPX 2||Light rain or drizzle||Device protected when tilted 15 degrees from normal operating position||Equivalent to 3 mm rainfall per minute for 10 minutes|
|IPX 3||Rain||Protects against sprayed water, accident hose spraying (not direct)||Test via spray nozzle (10 liters per minute at 7.3-21.8 psi) for at least 5 minutes, or oscillating tube (0.07 liters per minute) for 10 minutes|
|IPX 4||Splashes||Splashed water, like next to a sink and it gets splashed||Splashed or sprayed water at any angle for 10 minutes|
|IPX 5||Running water||Water coming from a nozzle, like a tap||Sprayed water (12.5 liters per minute at 4.4 psi, three meters away) for three minutes|
|IPX 6||Jets of water||Protection against a strong jet of water||Higher volumes of water (100 liters per minute at 15 psi, three meters away) for at least three minutes|
|IPX 7||Immersion||Can be submerged||Up to one meter, up to 30 minutes|
|IPX 8||Underwater||Stronger the IPX7, can go farther under or stay under longer||Determined by the manufacturer, varies|
|IPX 9||Powerful jets of hot water||Can be sprayed directly with hot water||80-degree Celcius water sprayed at 80-100 bar for two minutes|
IP Rating for Solid Particle (Dust) Protection
|IP Designation||Protection From||Tested By||Test Parameters|
|IP1X||Minimal protection||Protects against large particles||Greater than 50 mm|
|IP2X||Medium objects||Protection from fingers or similar sized items||Greater than 12.5 mm|
|IP3X||Small objects||Protection against tools or wire-sized objects||Greater than 2.5 mm|
|IP4X||Very small objects||Objects like thin wires, screws, and ants||Greater than 1 mm|
|IP5X||Dust resistant||Basic protection against dust, but not dust-proof||Some dust enters, but not enough to do damage|
|IP6X||Dust-proof||Completely protected against dust||Tested for windblown dust for 8 hours|
How Do I Know if my Device is Ingress Protected?
Ingress protection for consumer electronics is usually published on the back of the item. If you can’t find information on its IP level, it’s best to assume that it is not IP-rated and, therefore, not dust or waterproof.
What products need to be protected against ingress? Any electronic device that you intend to use outdoors or even carry with you benefits from having an IP rating. Watches, cell phones, fitness trackers, flashlights, and cameras are all great examples. If there’s any chance that it might get wet or be used on an adventure, you want to look for the best IP rating you can find.
If you have the choice, you don’t want to go with the bare minimum IPX rating to suit your needs. These are test standards, and they apply to factory new items. Even if your cellphone is rated IP67, you probably don’t want to make a habit of submerging it regularly. After a year or two, the seals have probably worn a little and it might not be as waterproof as it once was. But purchasing the best rating you can go a long way in buying electronics that will last through an active lifestyle.
How important is the Ingress Protection (IP) Rating for electronic devices? Who hasn’t dropped their cell phone in water accidentally? An IP-rated cell phone is built to a higher standard than its competitors, and it’s more likely to survive accidents. If you’re very accident-prone, this can be a comfort.
But if you’re planning a camping or hiking trip, it’s great to know what the minimum dust and water-resistance levels are for your device. Will you need to buy an external case? How rugged is it, and where can you take it? By knowing the answers to these questions, you can worry about your stuff less and enjoy your trip more.