If you’ve ever gone online shopping for a new set of earbuds, a smartwatch, or even a new smartphone, you’ve probably encountered a cryptic code that looks like this: IPXY, where the X and/or Y are sometimes replaced by numbers, e.g.

We’re here to help you crack the code with a step-by-step explanation of this oft-used, but seldom explained technical rating for water and dust resistance.

The two numbers that follow the letters IP indicate what kind of protection you can expect.

The X is the solids/dust protection level, from zero to six, where zero means no protection whatsoever, and six means it’s dust-tight: No dust can enter at all, even after exposure for up to 8 hours.

We’re going to focus on just the liquid protection here, because both level 5 and 6 of dust protection more or less amount to the same thing: IP5 means that some dust might get in, but it won’t cause any problems, and IP6 means no dust gets in at all.

IPX4 offers decent protection against splashing water.

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