The Blog

What does IP mean? Ignorance Pass or Ingress Protection

©istockphoto/IceArnaudov

©istockphoto/IceArnaudov

If you’ve been shopping for a smartphone, power bank or even headphones, you’ve probably seen the term IP followed by a series of numbers. If you’re curious what all that means, and want to update your status from ignorant to informed, read on.

In simplest terms, It’s a protection rating or designation, and it makes sense to have some understanding of it when you’re trying to decide between a device with a IP25 and IP67.

To start, IP is an acronym for “Ingress Protection,” a scaled rating system established by the International Electrotechnical Commission to help guide you on device care.

The two numbers immediately following IP are used to indicate the device’s ability to block entry of solid “dry” objects (like dust) and moisture (from rain to total submersion in water).

The numbers or scales are determined by specific tests that consider volume of water, duration of time, and distance from stream as part of the calculation. As the numbers increase, the size of objects and particles it can keep out get gradually smaller. Obviously, the higher the numbers in the rating, the better the protection.

The first number indicates how well it keeps out dry objects. This numbers rating runs from zero—or no protection to 6—meaning totally protected. (Occasionally, zero is replaced with an X). A 1 rating means it can keep out objects larger than approximately 1.6 inches diameter. A 6 on the scale means it can protect the device from particles the size of dust.

The second number runs from zero to 8, and indicates how well the device can handle moisture, specifically at certain angles. A low number in this case means it can keep out condensation or vertically falling raindrops. A 7 means it can be briefly submerged in less than a meter (3.2 feet) of water (say you drop your phone in a pool but immediately pull it out) and it will survive just fine. An 8 (an extremely rare rating) means it can handle continuous submersion.

A device with a IP67 rating can be counted on to offer complete protection from dust, and can handle being submerged in water up to 1 meter of water for about 30-minutes.

Just because your device has an IP54 or IP67 designation, doesn’t mean you should be totally careless with it. “Protection” is a key term in the testing benchmarks. Not accounted for in this discussion is force/pressure, or PSI, pounds-per-square-inch. If anything, those IP designations should remind you to protect your device and avoid exposing it to dust or water. while providing some peace of mind should you accidentally place your smartphone in that cup full of coffee sitting in your car’s beverage holder.

What commonsense suggests is that a phone placed in a cup full of liquid is less likely to be damaged than a phone that’s accidentally left in your swim trunks when you dive into a pool and swim around for a half hour, or the phone that takes a 45-minute trip through your washing machine. So a better way to look at this: IP means you can take you can take an ignorance pass once or twice. After that, your Hail Mary saves run out.