Why you should care about the IP rating of your tools.

Chances are you have seen a marking with “IP” followed by two numbers on your equipment, but what exactly do these numbers mean and why should you even care?

If you work in a trade, you probably invest a lot of money each year buying new or updating existing equipment. You may have a favourite brand, but often it’s hard to really compare the different aspects of tool quality. An IP rating is one simple indicator that is really useful in understanding what you are getting and what it can withstand.

IP stands for Ingress Protection and the ratings are an international standard of how effective an object is in keeping out foreign bodies. Now foreign bodies aren’t the blokes looking to nick stuff out of the back of your ute.

A foreign body might be your own hand or finger, or it could be things that harm your tools such as dust and water. The numbers should be interpreted as two separate single digits in isolation from each other. An x in place of a digit denotes no rating.

The first IP number indicates how well you are protected from moving parts, as well as how well the enclosed equipment parts are protected from interference from foreign bodies.

The second defines the protection level that the enclosure has from various forms of moisture (drips, sprays, submersion etc).

Intrusion Protection

The first digit represents the level of intrusion protection, between 1 and 7, as follows:

  1. No special protection
  2. Protection from a large part of the body such as a hand (but no protection from deliberate access); from solid objects greater than 50mm in diameter.
  3. Protection against fingers or other object not greater than 80mm in length and 12mm in diameter.
  4. Protection from entry by tools, wires etc, with a diameter of 2.5 mm or more.
  5. Protection against solid bodies larger than 1mm (eg fine tools/small etc).
  6. Protected against dust that may harm equipment.
  7. Totally dust tight.

 Moisture Protection

The second digit defines the level of moisture protection from 1 to 9:

  1. No protection.
  2. Protection against condensation
  3. Protection against water droplets deflected up to 15° from vertical
  4. Protected against spray up to 60° from vertical.
  5. Protected against water spray from all directions.
  6. Protection against low pressure water jets (all directions)
  7. Protection against strong water jets and waves.
  8. Protected against temporary immersion.
  9. Protected against prolonged effects of immersion under pressure.

For example, a rating of IP68 means that the enclosure is protected against dust that may harm equipment, as well as temporary immersion. However, the object is not necessarily protected against strong water jets (IPx7).

article by Riley Keogh 15 March 2019