The "IP" in the IP rating most often stands for Ingress Protection. Purists might correct you to say that this is really an International Conservation Mark. But Ingress Protection is a nice term to use because the most common ratings are all about ingress, or how easy it is for something to get inside. Knowing IP ratings and the IP rating table can help you see if you can use your tool in harsher conditions. Knowing how to read an IP rating chart can give you an idea of what those numbers mean in terms of water and dust resistance.
Table of contents
- What is an IP rating?
- IP Rating Code Breakdown – Decoding the IP Rating Chart
- Dust resistance – the first number
- Water resistance – second number
- General IP ratings for practice
- IP54 rating
- IP56 rating
- IP65 rating
- Can they make tools with higher IP ratings?
What is an IP rating?
Manufacturers love to advertise IP ratings on their tools. They're helpful if you know what you're looking at. But many professionals just assume bigger numbers are better and leave it at that. We'll break it down for you so the numbers make sense and you can instantly understand an IP rating the moment you see it — or at least get a rough idea.
IP ratings usually have two numbers. The first is code for dust/debris ingress, the second is water/moisture. In other words, it refers to how dust and water resistant a tool or other product is. Yes, the higher the number, the more protection it has.
IP Rating Code Breakdown – Decoding the IP Rating Chart
We mentioned the two-digit format of the IPXX rating code. However, one thing that often happens is that people forget which number is for water and which is for debris/dust. We have a simple solution: D (debris/dust) comes before W (water) in the alphabet. Likewise, the first number in the IPXX rating represents the level of protection against ingress of debris/dust. The second IPXX rating number tells you how waterproof the tool is.
Dust resistance – the first number
- 0: no rated protection
- 1: Objects larger than 50 mm (1.97 inches)
- 2: Objects larger than 12.5 mm (0.49 inches)
- 3: Objects larger than 2.5 mm (0.10 inches)
- 4: Objects larger than 1 mm (0.04 inches)
- 5: Dust-proof – dust does not get in enough to affect operation
- 6: Dust-proof – no dust entered during the 8-hour test
Many tools are IP5X rated, which means that on a typical day, not enough dust can get into your tool to affect operation. But some dust can get inside. This will build up over time. So for tools that are used around wood chips, concrete dust, drywall dust, etc., you still need to service the tool. Blow it out at the end of the day to clean the motor and brushes. If a tool has an IP6X rating, it pretty much claims to work 24/7 against dust.
Water resistance – second number
- 0: no protection
- 1: Water dripping vertically at a rate of 1 mm per minute for 10 minutes
- 2: The dripping water falls at 15 degrees at a speed of 3 mm per minute for 10 minutes (2.5 minutes in each of the 4 directions)
- 3: Spray water at a speed of 10 liters per minute at any angle of maximum 60 degrees for 10 minutes
- 4: Splashing water is similar to IPX3 test without shielding for 10 minutes
- 5: Spray water from any direction at a rate of 12.5 liters per minute for at least 3 minutes
- 6: Powerful spray of water at a rate of 100 liters per minute for at least 3 minutes from any direction
- 7: Immerse in a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes
- 8: Submersion typically up to 3 meters for a time agreed with the manufacturer
- 9: Power a jet of hot water at 14 – 16 liters per minute at 80 C (176 F) for 2 minutes
You'll see most tools start with an IPX4 rating and then move up to IPX6. When you get an IPX6 rating, it's very hard to get water damaged unless you leave it in the elements.
General IP ratings for practice
All you have to do now is match the IP rating to the code. Here are a few examples we often see in power tools, hand tools, measuring equipment, and more:
What does IP54 rating mean? Some dust will get in, but not enough to stop it from functioning during a normal workday. Splashing water cannot enter and damage the tool.
What does the IP56 rating mean? Again, some dust will get in, but not enough to interfere with the operation of the tool. Powerful high-flow water jets don't get in either. This is important for a tool designed for outdoor use in any weather or near water.
An IP65 rating means the tool is dust-tight and will not be rendered useless by lower power water jets. However, it won't deal with being submerged in water.
Sure you can, but you've run into a couple of problems. First, power tools need to be able to dissipate heat. Since that usually means they need vents, that leaves quite a gap for dust and water. Second, there is a cost to developing a tool that can handle the heat and operate under those conditions. An example of this being achieved is the Nemo underwater drilling rig.
Of course, job sites aren't just about tools. You'll see these ratings on storage solutions, job site lighting, and many other products.