Polar bears like to be clean and dry because matted, dirty, and wet fur is a poor insulator.
In summer, if the bears find something to eat, they feed for 20–30 minutes and then head for open water and spend up to 15 minutes washing off, according to scientist Ian Stirling. They also lick their paws, chests, and muzzles.
Polar bears dry themselves by shaking off excess water and by rubbing their fur in the snow.
In winter, polar bears clean themselves with snow (and with water, when available). Adult polar bears routinely swim in leads (openings in the ice) at any time of year. They also rub their heads in the snow, push forward on their tummies, and roll on their backs.
Polar bears even groom chunks of ice from their paws to make walking more comfortable.
Mother polar bears lick their cubs to keep them clean. Cubs also lick themselves and each other. After cubs leave the den, they learn how to wash in snow and water.