IP ratings explained: What those codes tell you about how well a device is protected from water and dust

The letters IP stand for Ingress Protection; that is, the ability to stop elements such as sand and water from getting inside and damaging an electronic device. The symbols that follow IP—IP67, for example, or IPX7—indicate the level of protection that’s provided. You’ll often see these ratings in product advertising, on the retail box, and quoted in product reviews—including TechHive’s.

You might see IP defined as “International Protection” rating in some online treatises, largely because the standard is defined by the International Electronics Commission (the specific standard is IEC 60529, and you can download a copy at this link). Having been called out by a reader for making this mistake myself, asked the IEC directly. While the IEC representative I contacted didn’t come right out and say that IP stands for Ingress Protection, they did say that Ingress Protection is the most suitable name. So, Ingress Protection it is.

iec logoIEC

IP ratings are defined by the International Electronics Commission.

Numerology

Lots of portable Bluetooth speakers are rated IP57. The first number references the size of foreign objects (e.g., particulate matter, such as dust) that will be rejected, and the second number rates the item’s resistance to liquid ingress. An “X” in place of either of those numbers (the first one, most commonly) doesn’t mean it offers no protection from that element, only that the manufacturer doesn’t claim a particular rating for it. More on that in a bit.

There are six values for resistance to particulate matter, and eight for liquid, so the highest possible rating is IP68.

Ingress protection from foreign objects

1: Protected against objects larger than 50 mm (2 inches) 

2: Protected against objects larger than 12.5 mm (0.5 inches)

3: Protected against objects larger than 2.5 mm (0.1 inches)

4: Protected against objects larger than 1 mm (0.04 inches)