Water and dust proofing: IP-ratings explained

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Lucille Barrett
Lucille Barretthttps://bloggingkits.org
Future teen idol. Hardcore tv lover. Social media guru. Zombie aficionado. Travel scholar. Biker, shiba-inu lover, audiophile, Mad Men fan and proud pixelpusher. Working at the junction of minimalism and elegance to answer design problems with honest solutions. I'm fueled by craft beer, hip-hop and tortilla chips.

In a world where the number of gadgets being launched is on the up, and so many being made to cope with indoor and outdoor life, there’s an increasing number of products sold with an IP-rating. After all, if you have an action camera, smart sports watch, or even a smartphone, you need to know it will survive the British rain, at the beach, or even white water rafting.

With so many different codes, stamps, and names for water and dust resistant qualities and certifications, it can be confusing. In this guide, we’ll break down what the IP-rating even means, explain a few of the more common ones, as well as detail other kinds of water resistance.

IP-ratings explained

IP ratings – what do the letters and numbers stand for?

IP ratings are made up of four characters. Five in some sporadic cases, but you’re unlikely to ever see those on a phone unless Samsung makes a phone that’s impervious to high-pressure jets of steam.

The first two characters, I and P, stand for Ingress Protection or – in other words – how good it is at stopping stuff from getting inside it. The third digit is the number that indicates how good it is at protecting against small solids (dust/sand etc.), with a maximum rating of 6. This ranges from no protection through small screws, a little dust, or all dust.

The last digit is the liquid or water-resistant rating, with a max rating of 8.

In other words, if you see IP68 somewhere, you know it offers the highest IP rating for both dust and water resistance. At least when it comes to the IP-rating certification.

What does IP68 mean?

When it comes to solids, devices like the Xperia Z5, Galaxy Note 5, and Galaxy S7 have been tested against dust and found to be dust-tight. It’ll come as some relief that the ‘6’ also means it’s good with deliberate contact with a body part, so it won’t crumble like a Jacob’s Cream Cracker when you pick it up.

As for the 8 at the end, that means the phone has been tested at depths more than 1 meter and found to be unharmed. While the standard testing doesn’t specifically mention an exact depth, you’ll find manufacturers do list them. For instance, Samsung says its IP68 rated Galaxy Note 7 can survive being up to 1.5 meters deep for up to 30 minutes.

IP = Ingress Protection
6 = Dust Tight
8 = Survives being submerged in water over 1m deep (manufacturer determines exactly how deep)
It’s probably worth noting, just because something is IP68 rated and great at lasting underwater, it may not be tested to withstand rain or spray from a jet of some kind.

What does IP65 mean?

You’ll often see products with more than one IP rating, and that’s simply because they’re tested for different kinds of waterproofing. For instance, the Sony Xperia Z5 has both IP68 and IP65 ratings. As mentioned already, the IP68 rating means it can survive being submerged. IP65 denotes that it’s also good at handling spray.
Technically, it’s tested using water being projected by a 6.3mm nozzle. In real-world use, though, it just means it can survive the rain or the shower. Just don’t go spraying it with a pressure washer. As a bonus, it’s also impervious to dust because it also has the ‘6’ in there.

What about IP67, IP53, or others?

There’s a large number of combinations for IP ratings, and it can get confusing. IP67 devices, like the [X], for instance, have the same dust resistance as the Galaxy S7 and Xperia Z5 but can only survive being up to 1 meter deep in water. Any more than that, and the water will push through any protection.

HTC 10, as the other example, has IP53, which means it’s somewhat protected against dust, but not totally, and can live with spraying water, but not jets of water and certainly not being submerged.

What does IPX7 mean?

The X’s presence in the rating does throw some people, but devices like the Apple Watch, some Garmin cameras and wearables, and even some phones feature it. It means the device hasn’t been certified for protection against dust but doesn’t mean it’s not dust resistant.

As with any other rating with 7 at the end, it means the Apple Watch (as an example) can last up to half an hour in water up to one meter deep.

What is nano-coating?

A nano-coating is essentially a microscopically thin film that’s sprayed over the internal components to help water roll away from anything that could potentially be damaged by moisture.

Some companies, specifically Motorola, like to build their phones with a water repellant nano-coating but don’t offer a specific IP-rating. With these devices, like the Moto Z, the phone will probably be fine with accidental spills, light rain, or the odd splash but won’t survive being submerged or when faced with jets of water or heavy rain.

Put simply: don’t take them in the shower, and definitely don’t take them underwater on your holidays.

What does ATM mean?

Although some smartwatches will include an IP-rating, you’ll more often than not find waterproof capabilities denoted by ATM, at least with watches designed for sports or outdoor activities. ATM stands for atmospheres (nothing to do with cash machines) and basically indicates how much pressure it can take. Or, in other words, how deep you can take it underwater.

It’s normally reserved for devices designed to be used underwater, and in most cases, one ATM is 10 meters, five ATM is 50 meters, and ten ATM is 100 meters.

For a breakdown of each individual possible IP-rating, check out the level-by-level chart on DSMT.com.

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