Created by the European Committee for Electro Technical Standardization, Ingress Protection (IP) is a specification that’s used the define the degree to which an enclosure is susceptible to the intrusion of moisture and dust/debris. When buying an electronic device like a smartphone, for instance, the manufacturer may display its IP rating to show consumers that it’s water resistant. There’s no law requiring manufacturers or vendors to display IP ratings for their respective products, though many do so willingly because it improves sales.
With that said, IP ratings indicate more than just whether or not an enclosure is water resistant. A typical mobile phone may have an IP58 rating, indicating that it can withstand moisture when submerged in freshwater for up to half and hour, and it’s also dust resistant. You can find IP ratings available from several of the leading manufacturers of mobile phones, including Sony, Samsung, Motorola, Apple and LG. Again, there’s no law requiring manufacturers to display or use IP ratings, but it’s still a common specification in products where moisture is a concern.
As shown above, the IP rating consists of two digits. The first digit ranges from 0 to 6 and represents the enclosure’s susceptibility to dust and other solid particles. An IP rating with a 0 in the first digit indicates that the enclosure has no protection against the intrusion of solid particles. An IP rating with a 6 in the first digit indicates that the enclosure is completely dust tight and fully protected from the intrusion of solid particles.
While the first digit in the IP rating focuses specifically on protection from solid particles, the second digit focuses and moisture. Rather than just going to 6, however, the second digit ranges from 0 to 9. An IP rating with a 0 in the second digit indicates that the enclosure has no protection against the intrusion of water and moisture. An IP rating with a 9 in the second digit indicates that the enclosure is completely protected from the intrusion of water and moisture when submerged under heavy pressure.
Based on this information, it’s safe to assume that enclosures with a higher IP rating are better than their counterparts with a low rating. A high rating — both in the first and second digit — indicates the enclosure is capable of withstanding moisture and dust without ill effect. Of course, an IP rating isn’t needed on all products. Rather, they are generally used on products where moisture is a concern, such as electronic devices.