Understanding IP Ratings: Ask the PTR Pros
Manufacturers love to tout IP ratings on their tools. If you know what’s you’re looking at, they’re helpful. But many Pros just assume higher numbers are better and leave it at that. When it comes to understanding IP ratings, knowledge is power – mainly in that you might be able to use your tools in tougher conditions than you realize.
The “IP” in IP ratings most commonly stands for ingress protection. Purists might correct you to say that it’s really International Protection Markings. But ingress protection is a good term to use because the most common ratings are all about ingress, or how easily things get inside.
There are usually two numbers on an IP rating. The first is a code for dust/debris ingress and the second is water/moisture. In other words, it’s how dust-proof and waterproof a tool or other product is. And yes, the higher the number, the more protection it has.
IP Rating Code Breakdown
Dust Resistance – The First Number
- 0: No protection
- 1: Objects greater than 50 mm (1.97 inches)
- 2: Objects greater than 12.5 mm (0.49 inch)
- 3: Objects greater than 2.5 mm (0.10 inch)
- 4: Objects greater than 1 mm (0.04 inch)
- 5: Dust Protected – dust doesn’t get in sufficiently enough to affect operation
- 6: Dust Tight – no dust gets in during an 8-hour test
Most tools come with an IP5X rating, meaning that surrounding there won’t be enough dust getting in your tool during a typical day to affect operation. But some dust can make it inside and over time, it will build up. So for tools that are around sawdust, concrete dust, drywall dust, etc., you still need to maintain the tool.
Water Resistance – The Second Number
- 0: No protection
- 1: Dripping water at a rate of 1 mm per minute for 10 minutes vertically
- 2: Dripping water at a rate of 3 mm per minute falling at 15 degrees for 10 minutes (4 directions for 2.5 minutes each)
- 3: Spraying water at a rate of 10 liters per minute at any angle up to 60 degrees for 10 minutes
- 4: Splashing water similar to IPX3 test without shielding for 10 minutes
- 5: Water jets from any direction at a rate of 12.5 liters per minute for at least 3 minutes
- 6: Powerful water jets from any direction at a rate of 100 liters per minute for at least 3 minutes
- 7: Immersion up to 1 meter deep for 30 minutes
- 8: Immersion generally up to 3 meters for time agreed upon with the manufacturer
- 9: Power high-temperature water jets at a rate of 14 – 16 liters per minute with temperature of 80 C (176 F) for 2 minutes
You’ll see most tools start with an IPX4 rating and move up to IPX6. By the time you’re getting the IPX6 rating, it’s pretty tough to damage from water unless you’re leaving it out in the elements.
All you have to do now is match the IP ratings with the code. Here are a few examples.
What does IP54 mean? Some dust will get in, but not enough to stop operation on a normal work day and splashes of water will not get in and damage the tool.
What does IP56 mean? Again, some dust will get in, but not enough to disrupt operation and powerful, high-flow jets of water won’t get in.
What does IP65 mean? This is dust-proof and lower power water jets won’t make it in. But it won’t handle being submerged.
Can They Make Tools with Higher IP Ratings?
Absolutely, but you run into a couple of issues. First, power tools need to be able to dissipate heat through vents, so that leaves a pretty big gap for dust and water. Second, there’s the cost of developing a tool that can handle the heat and operate in those conditions. One example is the Nemo underwater drill.
But jobsites are more than just about tools, so you’ll see these ratings show up on storage solutions, jobsite lighting, and a few other areas.