City living has its advantages, but with greater population density often comes an assortment of problems like pests, litter, and pollution that can turn any city from sparkling to filthy.
Some cities are dirtier than others. How does your city compare to the others in our ranking of 2022’s Dirtiest Cities in America?
LawnStarter ranked nearly 90 of the biggest U.S. cities across four key categories, including pollution, living conditions, infrastructure, and consumer satisfaction.
Find out how your city fared in our ranking below, followed by some highlights, lowlights, and a few notes on why this study matters.
Depending on where you live, you may want to buy some air fresheners, mouse traps, or a can of Raid.
Table of Contents
See how your city and others fared in our ranking:
|OVERALL RANK||City||Overall Score||Pollution Rank||Living Conditions Rank||Infrastructure Rank||Consumer Satisfaction Rank|
|3||Los Angeles, CA||49.87||21||5||31||5|
|4||San Bernardino, CA||49.79||2||41||62||1|
|5||Oklahoma City, OK||49.01||10||3||5||67|
|6||San Antonio, TX||46.92||30||2||25||22|
|7||Las Vegas, NV||45.91||19||42||2||21|
|14||New York, NY||42.19||54||1||49||6|
|19||Long Beach, CA||41.47||14||9||75||43|
|21||San Jose, CA||40.99||45||26||55||18|
|27||Jersey City, NJ||39.45||55||10||50||7|
|28||Kansas City, KS||39.35||56||11||8||40|
|30||Santa Ana, CA||39.08||24||43||61||13|
|33||San Francisco, CA||37.48||62||13||53||9|
|35||Fort Worth, TX||37.35||28||51||63||15|
|35||New Orleans, LA||37.35||77||18||21||12|
|52||Fort Lauderdale, FL||32.33||53||30||18||64|
|53||Port St. Lucie, FL||32.31||36||33||46||81|
|56||Kansas City, MO||31.69||35||76||23||50|
|58||Newport News, VA||31.07||86||66||60||4|
|59||San Diego, CA||30.69||34||70||39||61|
|71||St. Petersburg, FL||25.8||83||49||15||76|
|74||St. Louis, MO||25.39||58||77||40||35|
|85||Virginia Beach, VA||17.7||87||71||52||80|
|86||Overland Park, KS||17.07||72||79||36||85|
Highlights and Lowlights
Newark: Dirty is in the Eye of the Beholder
New Jersey’s biggest city, Newark, lands atop the landfill as our Dirtiest City in America because of residents’ perceptions of Brick City.
Newark ranked No. 1 for both the share of residents who consider the city to be dirty or untidy and the share of residents dissatisfied with garbage disposal, according to a Numbeo survey. The city ranked No. 2 for the share of residents dissatisfied with the city’s parks and greenery.
Take away those survey results and the most flattering rankings for Newark were No. 68 for refuse and recycling collectors per 100,000 residents and No. 52 for tons of waste in landfills per 100,000 residents.
What does this say about the city that was the setting for “The Many Saints of Newark?” The people who live there think the city could be cleaner, brighter, and greener. Our suggestion: Just wait for the cherry blossoms at Branch Brook Park — how can you not feel better about living in Newark?
Biggest and Dirtiest Cities
More people means more rats, more roaches, and more dirty, smoggy air. Houston and Los Angeles landed in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots on our Dirtiest Cities list.
H-Town ranked No. 7 in the Living Conditions category (the home of the Rockets is also home to lots of roaches, finishing No. 3) and No. 9 in the Pollution category.
California’s largest city, meanwhile, ranked No. 5 in both the Living Conditions and Consumer Satisfaction categories. The City of Angels is also, it seems, the city of junkyards (tied at No. 1 with three other cities).
How did other big cities fare in our ranking? Chicago finished No. 10 but tied for No. 1 in the share of homes with sewage disposal breakdowns in the past 3 months. New York landed at No. 14 both overall and for the share of homes with signs of mice or rats in the past 12 months.
Some cities stand out for a single metric — but they’re no reasons to brag. For example, Indianapolis landed at No. 1 for refuse and recycling collectors per 100,000 residents, while Rochester, New York, tops the share of homes with mold in the past 12 months.
St. Petersburg, Florida, meanwhile, wins hands-down — or should that be slamming shoes down — when it comes to the share of homes with signs of cockroaches in the past 12 months.
We ranked 87 of the biggest U.S. cities from dirtiest (No. 1) to cleanest (No. 87) based on their overall scores (out of 100 possible points), averaged across all the weighted metrics listed below.
We began with an initial sample comprising the 200 biggest U.S. cities. We then eliminated the cities — 113 total — lacking data for more than 10% of the total metrics in a single category.
The 87 cities that remained in our sample were then scored and ranked only on the metrics for which data were available. In most cases, a city lacked data for only one out of 23 total metrics and limited to two maximum for the fairest possible comparison.
|Metric||Weighting||Min. Value||Max. Value||Dirtiest|
|Median Air Quality Index||3||38||101||Max. Value|
|Presence of Water Quality Violations (1 = Present, 0 = Not Present)||3||0||1||Max. Value|
|Greenhouse-Gas Emissions (Metric Tons CO2e) per Capita||2||0||30.65||Max. Value|
|Annual Excess Fuel Consumption (Gallons per Auto Commuter)||1||7||23||Max. Value|
|Population Density (Residents per Square Mile)||2||955.72||28,028.79||Max. Value|
|Share of Overcrowded Homes||1||0.81%||11.66%||Max. Value|
|Share of Homes with No Kitchen Facilities||1||0.38%||22.02%||Max. Value|
|Share of Homes with No Plumbing Facilities||1||0.22%||19.22%||Max. Value|
|Share of Homes with Mold in Last 12 Months||2||0.00%||4.37%||Max. Value|
|Share of Homes with Signs of Mice or Rats in Last 12 Months||3||0.20%||20.12%||Max. Value|
|Share of Homes with Signs of Cockroaches in Last 12 Months||3||0.67%||37.60%||Max. Value|
|Share of Homes with Sewage Disposal Breakdowns in Last 3 Months||2||0.51%||1.97%||Max. Value|
|Unsheltered Homeless Rate (per 1,000 Residents)||1||0.01||5.92||Max. Value|
|Tons of Waste in Landfills per 100,000 Residents||3||0||24.24M||Max. Value|
|Rating of State Waste Regulations and Measures||2||3||50||Max. Value|
|Refuse and Recycling Collectors per 100,000 Residents||1||9.85||304.47||Min. Value|
|Share of Roads in Poor Condition||1||4%||71%||Max. Value|
|Alternative-Fuel Stations per 100,000 Residents||1||4.75||211.23||Min. Value|
|Number of Junk Yards||1||0||17||Max. Value|
|Share of Residents Who Find City Dirty and Untidy||3||0%||90.62%||Max. Value|
|Share of Residents Dissatisfied with Pollution||3||3.57%||75.00%||Max. Value|
|Share of Residents Dissatisfied with Garbage Disposal||2||0%||65.62%||Max. Value|
|Share of Residents Dissatisfied with Greenery and Parks||1||0%||63.64%||Max. Value|
Sources: County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, LawnStarter, National Transportation Research Nonprofit (TRIP), Numbeo, Salvage-Parts.com, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Why This Study Matters
Every cloud — even the pandemic — has a silver lining. We can thank the 2020 lockdowns for cleaning the air and water in many cities across the globe.
But old habits die hard. As lockdown restrictions eased, pollution returned to pre-pandemic levels in many urban areas. And once Americans started commuting and traveling again in 2021, U.S. emissions shot up by 6.2% compared with 2020.
Unclean air is the last thing we all need during this pandemic. Air pollution worsens the severity of COVID-19 in lung cancer patients, and it increases our chances for heart disease and stroke.
In many cities, people deal with more than just pollution, though — they have to contend with pests, litter, and even bad waste-management services.
Despite the obvious issue — dirty cities are unappealing to residents and tourists — dealing with dirt and grime can be a huge drain on municipal budgets. For example, in 2017, San Francisco spent $46 million on street cleaning alone.
Here’s the bottom line: Dirty cities aren’t just smoggy, buggy, and costly to clean — they also can damage our bodies.
Clean cities tend to have lots of tidy, healthy, green lawns. If you need help getting and keeping your yard looking picture-perfect and pest-free, LawnStarter’s pros can help.
Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock