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What do IP waterproof ratings mean?

Waterproof vs water-resistant – how can you tell?

Waterproof vs water-resistant. There’s an important difference in these two terms and it’s measured by a product’s IP Rating. In this article, we’ll explain the difference, how to decode your gear’s IP rating, and give you some examples for reference.

Many types of products are intended for some degree of outdoor use. And if you’re the adventurous type, there’s a good chance that some of your new gear might get wet when you’re out having fun.

Portable Bluetooth® speakers, outdoor speakers, powersports gear, marine audio gear, activewear – even our smartphones – now have some degree of waterproofness.

But how do you know how much water your gear can withstand? Can it survive a dip in the pool or just a splash from the sidelines? Most products are explicit in telling you what you can expect, but sometimes they only give you a cryptic number, like “rated IPX5 water-resistant.” Mysterious.

IP ratings can be a big help and we’ll explain what they mean below. But first, here's a quick video that shows us putting some waterproof products to the test.

What's the difference between waterproof and water-resistant?

Waterproof means the gear can be fully submerged, though depths and the amount of time underwater vary by product type.

Water-resistant means the gear can handle splashes and light rain, and maybe even direct sprays of water, but not complete submersion. Levels of resistance also vary by product type.

IP ratings defined

IP stands for International Protection (sometimes stated as Ingress Protection). The ratings tell you how much protection any given product has against exposure to solids and liquids.

There are many different IPX variants. The rating is always listed with "IP" followed by two characters, usually numbers. An "X" in either location means that the product isn't rated for that form of protection. For example, "IPX5" means that the item isn't rated (or tested) for protection from dust or solids, but has a water resistance rating of 5.

First digit = protection from solids

The first digit stands for its protection against solid particles like dirt and dust. A rating of 1 signifies protection against anything greater than 50 mm, about the size of a fist. It goes all the way to 6 which means that not even dust can enter. 

Second digit = protection from liquids

The second digit is an indicator of how well the product protects against water. The scale goes from 1, which covers dripping, all the way to 8, which protects against submersion. The higher the number, the more waterproof it is.

Consult our charts below for the meaning of each number.

SOLID PROTECTION

X No data was collected
0 No protection against the entry of solids
1 Objects greater than 50mm cannot enter the enclosure

2

Objects greater than 12.5mm cannot enter the enclosure

3

Objects greater than 2.5mm cannot enter the enclosure

4

Objects greater than 1mm cannot enter the enclosure

5 Keeps out most dirt and dust
6 100% dust-proof

LIQUID PROTECTION

X No data was collected
0 No protection against water
1 Protects against vertically dripping water
2 Protects against water dripping at several angles
3 Protects against spraying water
4 Protects against splashing water from all directions
5 Protects against water projected from a 6.3 mm nozzle at low pressure
6 Protects against water projected from a 12.5 mm nozzle at high pressure
7 Protects against immersion into up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes
8 Protects against immersion more than 1 meter for a duration defined by the manufacturer

Examples of IP ratings on real products

To put this explanation in real-world terms, here are a couple of products and their IP ratings. 

  • JBL Charge 5 Bluetooth speaker: IP67. That means this portable speaker is highly resistant to sand and dust and can survive harsh sprays of water and complete submersion for a short time. And as an editorial note, it sounds fantastic. 
  • Clarion CMM-20 marine stereo: IP66. This stereo can withstand the dirt and grime that comes with life on a boat or in an outdoor vehicle. It's also resistant to heavy sprays, splashes, and rain, but cannot be fully submerged. And if your boat or off-road vehicle gets fully submerged, then you have more to worry about than a ruined stereo. 
  • Bose® Sport Earbuds: IPX4. These earbuds can withstand light splashing, but not strong sprays and shouldn't be left out in a downpour. The X means that they aren't rated for protection from solids, but they are rugged, well-built earbuds. They'll hold up for the long haul. 

Questions?

Your Crutchfield Advisor can answer your questions and help you find weatherproof and dirt-proof products that meet your needs. Contact us today.

Last updated 10/7/2022
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