Have you ever had the misfortune of having your product – whether it is a brand new shiny smartphone, a chic headphone, or your survival torchlight – go kaput on you due to exposure to moisture?

Perhaps, you’ve had one of your devices get spoilt. If you have had this experience, you would agree with me that it wasn’t a pleasant one and most times those products were marketed as water resistant, nonporous and with all those waterproof marketing terms. We’ll also tell you what the IPX ratings mean.

Or maybe you’ve not lost any of your products due to over-exposure to liquid, but you’re just curious to understand what IPX means, its impact on product ratings and what to look out for when making a buying decision. This article is written with you in mind.


What is an IPX rating?

IPX ratings or Ingress Protection or International Protection is the standardized measure of protection a device has against intrusions by liquid or dust. The rating is supposed to let you know what level of moisture your device can be exposed to without getting spoilt.

Some products are designed to withstand water droplets falling on them at a specific angle, while others are fortified to withstand a strong beating with liquid or still work well even after being immersed in it. So knowing the rating of your device, helps you manage the level of moisture to your gadgets.


How to read the IPX ratings

I can imagine you wondering, “Alright, I now understand, but how do I make sense of the code?”. Here’s how to read the code:

  • IP stands for Ingress Protection. It’s usually at the start of each one.
  • “X” is a placeholder that is replaced with the appropriate digit. If a device is only water rated then the “X” remains, but if it is water rate and dust rated, then you have double digits after the IP letters.
  • The last number is always the rating.

Since we are talking about waterproof ratings for devices, wouldn’t it be a good idea to briefly explain what each of these terms impervious, liquid-repellent, and waterproof means?


When do we say a product is waterproof?

ipx waterproof water ratings explained

A product is said to be waterproof when it can withstand the penetration of it to some level but not entirely. Hence, extended exposure will lead to an eventual penetration of moisture into the product.

Waterproof products are usually coated with some substance that makes it more difficult for liquid to get inside, think of some wristwatches that have impervious engraved on them.



Water-proof, what does it mean?

A product is said to be waterproof when it is treated with substances that make it repel water. To make a device waterproof in most cases, they are coated with hydrophobic – water hating substances.

You’d see many companies claim their products are waterproof, be sure to take those marketing gimmicks with a pinch of salt.



What does the term waterproof mean?

waterproof water ratings ipx explained

Waterproof is the highest level of protection assigned a product against water damage. It means that water cannot penetrate the surface of the device – that is, it is impermeable to it.

Products rated as waterproof can withstand a sustained onslaught of a harsh weather condition without caving in.

Now, we have examined what each of these terms means. Let us take a look at the different ratings a product can be assigned:


Different IPX ratings explained


Any product with this rating markings means it does not have any form of protection against it– that is they have zero waterproof ability. This score is the default rating of most products before testing. You better be careful with the products, because once they get wet, they are as good as gone.


IPX1 rating protects against dripping. Hence liquid falling on the device’s surface at 90 degree does not have a harmful effect for a sustained period of up to ten minutes.


A product with this rating means the device is protected from dripping liquid when tilted to a 15-degree angle. Hence if perhaps you had your device exposed to dripping liquid and slanted at a 15-degree angle, it would not sustain any damage for a ten minutes period.


It means that your product can be exposed to spray water of up to 60 degrees without sustaining any damage. Want to turn your gear into IPX3 rated? Check out our guide on the best waterproofing sprays on the market.


It means that it can withstand splashing liquids from any direction without any harm.


Now, here’s where it starts getting interesting, if by chance your device is exposed to water jets from any direction for three minutes, then your device can still function well.


The device can withstand liquid from a powerful water jet for at least three minutes.


What happens when you unknowing immerse your device in one meter for thirty minutes? Nothing. Your device can withstand ingress and will still function well.


This rating means your device is suitable for continuous immersion, without any damage to it. However, this is dependent on the conditions specified by the manufacturer. The product will still perform OK when immersed beyond one meter and for extended periods.


This is the highest level of protection any product can have. It means that the device can withstand a powerful, high temperature of water jets.


Finally, keeping your device away from liquids as much as you can be your objective. We understand that there are situations in which there’s nothing much you can do – in those cases – you can lie easily by trusting that the ratings holds up.

Nick Davis

Technology blogs contributor, I love everything that's high-tech and super solid. While traveling, hiking and surfing, I make sure to put my gear to the toughest tests. Join me in my quest of discovering gadgets with superpowers!

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