Water Resistant vs Waterproof. What is the Difference?

You run across them all the time – shopping online, reading reviews or watching TV. Waterproof, water-resistant, water-repellent. Or IP67 and IP68.

These terms are important to know if you are on the hunt for electronic products. Especially for wearable and portable devices. Do you even know that two common ratings for consumer devices are IP67 and IP68?

We all read references to waterproof, and water-resistant devices in the description of electronic products. What does it mean when a product is referred to as waterproof? Will it survive a drop in a pool? Can you submerge your smartwatch in the water?


Water Resistant vs Waterproof. What is the Difference?


Quick definitions of all terms:

  • Water-resistant: designed to not be easily harmed or affected by water or to not allow water to pass through easily
  • Water-repellent: treated with a finish that is resistant but not impervious to penetration by water
  • Waterproof: impervious to water, covered or treated with a material (such as a solution of rubber) to prevent permeation by water

Source: [Merriam-Webster


Understanding the basics of water-resistance is important to keeping your gadgets safe as well as purchasing the right device for your needs.


Important Note:

There is no waterproof gadget on the market! Every watch, portable speaker, phone, GPS device, or whatever you like that is marked as waterproof should be labeled as water-resistant with parameters specified by the manufacturer. 100% waterproof products will always have some limit to them. When subjected to enough pressure for enough time, every gadget will eventually fail.

Waterproof – Being waterproof means the gadget can be submerged in the water, but only for some time. Theoretically, the gadget should remain impervious to water, but in reality, after some time period, the protective shield will reach its level and get a few drops of water on the inside.

Water-repellent – The water-repellent devices are nowadays treated with a nano-film coating on the inside, outside, or both, making it hard for the water to penetrate. If a device has this label, it offers the ability to repel water from it and making it hydrophobic.  While waterproof is the highest degree, water-repellent means that the device is not that good at keeping water away when it has to face the water.

Water-resistant – This term means that your device can resist water, but it is not 100% full proof. This is the lowest level of water protection of the three. If your device has the water-resistant label, you shouldn’t trust the proclamation without checking out how they define the water-resistance.


What is water resistant device


Detailed Look At Water Resistance


There are two ratings and terms used to for water-resistance. The first is Atmospheres (ATM) rating and the second is IP (Ingress Protection) rating.


ATM rating


ATM is short for atmospheres and indicates the depth to which a device is safe. Each ATM is equivalent to 10 meters (33 feet) of static water pressure. In short, the higher the better.

1 ATM (10 meters = 33 feet). Improved resistance to rain and splashes. No showering or swimming.

3 ATM (30 meters = 100 feet). Rain, splashing, accidental submersion and showering. No swimming.

5 ATM (50 meters = 165 feet). Rain, splashing, accidental submersion, showering, surface swimming, shallow snorkeling

10 ATM (100 meters = 330 feet). Rain, splashing, accidental submersion, showering, swimming, and snorkeling. No deep water scuba diving or high-speed water sports.

20 ATM (200 meters = 660 feet). Rain, splashing, accidental submersion, showering, swimming, snorkeling, surface diving, and water sports. No deep water diving.

Unfortunately for us, there is no universal testing method, so practical usage is different for every device. It’s a good idea to check the manufacturers’ website and see what the company recommends before taking it in the shower or the swimming pool.


IP rating


International Protection Ratings (IP ratings) created by International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) to refer to how much water, moisture or dirt a product can stand. Ratings range from 0 to 6 for dust and dirt and 0 to 8 for water.

The first and second digit in the rating indicates how would the gadget withstands exposure to solid particles and liquids.


IP67 vs IP68 what is the difference


The maximum rating for solid objects is 6 and for liquids 8. If your gadget has IP68, it does mean, it lets in very little dust and dirt and can be submerged in water for up to x minutes at a time.


Protection against solids:

0 (zero): No protection against contact and ingress of objects

1: Effective against objects > 50 mm. Any large surface of the body, such as the back of the hand, but no protection against deliberate contact with a body part.

2: Effective against objects > 12.5mm. Fingers or similar objects.

3: Effective against objects > 2.5mm. Tools, thick wires, etc.

4: Effective against objects > 1mm. Most wires, screws, etc.

5: Dust Protected. Ingress of dust is not entirely prevented, but it must not enter in sufficient quantity to interfere with the satisfactory operation of the equipment; complete protection against contact.

6: Dust Tight. No ingress of dust; complete protection against contact.


Protection against liquids:

0 (zero): No protection.

1: Protects against vertically dripping water. An equivalent of 1 mm rainfall per minute for 10 minutes.

2: Dripping water when tilted at 15 degrees. Vertically dripping water shall have no harmful effect when the enclosure is tilted at an angle of 15° from its normal position.

3: Protects against spraying water. The gadget is safe from water lightly spraying at any angle up to 60 degrees.

4: Protects against splashing water. Water splashing against the device from any direction have no harmful effect.

5: Protects against water jets. Water projecting from a 6.3 mm nozzle from any direction will not cause damage.

6: Protects against more powerful water jets. Water projecting from a 12.5 mm nozzle from any direction will not cause damage.

7: Protects from immersion up to 1 meter in depth. The device remains undamaged during immersion in water up to 1 meter deep for 30 minutes.

8: Protects from immersion more than 1 meter in depth. The device is suitable for continuous immersion in water under conditions which are specified by the manufacturer.

Source: [Wikipedia]


What Does The X Mean?


Sometimes you can see ratings of IPX4 or IP4X for instance, but what does the X mean? An IP code with an “X” gets you information that a device hasn’t been tested to protect against the entry of solid objects (X instead of the first number) or moisture (the second number).

Two common ratings for consumer devices are IP67 and IP68. With the use of the tables above you should already know how they’re different, what do these things mean, and which is better (IP67 vs iP68).

To be sure, here is a short explanation.


IP67 vs iP68

Protection against solids – IP67 vs IP68: Both devices are rated as being totally protected against dust.

Protection against liquids – The IP67 device is protected during immersion in water up to 1 meter deep for 30 minutes. Including splashing from a shower or an accidental (brief) dunking.

IP68 devices are protected from immersion more than 1 meter in depth. The product is either hermetically sealed or any water that does get inside will cause no damage.