Bathroom lighting zones – how to design a safe and well-lit bathroom space

What are bathroom lighting zones? And why IP ratings (Ingress Protection) are vitally important when it comes to designing your bathroom, here's what you need to know

Bathroom lighting zones
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bathroom lighting zones are crucial when it comes to installing bathroom lighting and deciding which type of light can be used where. Due to the high level of moisture present is a bathroom, – compared to other areas in the house – and as electricity and water do not bode well together, awareness of bathroom lighting zones and of light IP ratings (Ingress Protection) is essential to design a safe and well-lit bathroom space.

There are four basic hazard zones to consider. Each zone types represents the different proximities of bathroom water sources and light fittings to determine which light fitting can be used safely and where. Read on for all the information you need to know and when you'd like additional bathroom ideas and inspiration, be sure to check out our design feature.

Can any light go in a bathroom?

This depends on the zone and on the light's IP rating. You should be able to use most types of lighting on the outside zones where no water is likely to be used but be sure to check with your electrician.

What is an IP rating? 

All lights used in a bathroom environment, where proximity to water or steam is likely, must have an IP rating. This defines how effective the sealing of electrical enclosures is against intrusion and contact from moisture and other foreign bodies such as tools and dirt which can be hazardous. A light's IP rating will indicate which zone it can be safely installed in. 

An IP rating can be identified by the first two initials 'IP' ahead of two digits. The first determines how resistant the light is to solids and tools. It is the second digit which matters the most when it comes to bathroom lighting as it indicates how water resistant the light is. The higher the number, the more water repellent the light. 

And with each zone, will be its own IP rating that determines the level of protection from moisture required and the types of light fittings allowed.

What are the zones for bathroom lighting?

Bathroom lighting must adhere to strict regulations so it is safe to use in a wet environment. A suite is made up of different zones (below), depending on the distance to the water source, which determines the type of lighting allowed and which IP rating it must have. 

Each zone has a rating, starting from 0, which is closest to a water source, so lighting must be immersion-proof. Outside zones are areas where no water is present. It's sensible for all bathroom lights to be at least IP44, even in outside zones, but always consult your electrician, and check the product descriptions before buying. Look out for lighting specifically designed to be in line with IP ratings.

For plenty of bathroom lighting ideas check out our dedicated page.

What is bathroom zone 0 lighting?

Zone 0 is inside the bath or shower itself. Any lighting used in this zone must be rated at least IP67, which means the fitting is completely immersion proof.

What is bathroom zone 1 lighting?

Bathroom zone 1 is the area above a bath or shower to a height of 2.25m from the floor. In this zone, lighting with a minimum rating of IP45 is required but it is generally accepted that IP65 should be used to ensure safety.

What is bathroom zone 2 lighting?

Zone 2 covers the area stretching 0.6m outside the perimeter of the bath and to a height of 2.25m from the floor as well as the area around the basin within a 60cm radius of any tap. In this zone lighting with a minimum IP rating of at IP44 is advised.

What are bathroom outside zones?

Outside zones are areas outside of the above: 0, 1 and 2 where no water jet is likely to be used. Whilst there are no special IP requirements in this zone, it is advised that any lights used in a bathroom have an IP rating of at least IP20+.

More bathroom design know-how:

Camille Dubuis-Welch
Former Deputy Editor

I'm Cam, the former deputy editor of Real Homes who worked on the site from 2020 to 2023. As a renter myself, sharing a home with two friends (and my cat) in London, I know all too well the challenges that this can pose when it comes to creating your perfect setup. As someone who has always loved everything interior design-related, I cannot rest until a home feels right and I am really passionate about helping others get there too, no matter what their living situation, style, or budget may be. It’s not always the easiest to figure out, but the journey is fun and the results are so worth it.

After interior design, travel, art, and photography are my next big passions. When I’m not writing or editing homes content, I’m usually tapping into other creative outlets, exploring galleries in London or further afield, taking photos, scribbling, or drawing!