America’s dirtiest city is revealed — and it’s not NYC or anywhere near the north

The dirtiest city in America is not exactly what you would expect it to be.
The dirtiest city in America is not exactly what you would expect it to be.

Do you think New York’s filthy sidewalks, gross subway cars and rat infestations make it America’s dirtiest city? You’re in for quite a surprise.

A recent study by LawnStarter has crowned Houston, Texas, as the nation’s dirtiest city — bumping Newark, New Jersey from the top spot.

New York City, despite its notorious grime, didn’t even crack the top 10. It landed in 12th place. While the Big Apple dodged the title of dirtiest, it’s still grappling with its trash and pest problems.

The dirtiest city in America is not exactly what you would expect it to be. NY Post composite
The dirtiest city in America is not exactly what you would expect it to be. NY Post composite
A recent study found that Houston currently stands as the dirtiest city in America. Houston Chronicle via Getty Images
A recent study found that Houston currently stands as the dirtiest city in America. Houston Chronicle via Getty Images
Trash floating around a construction barge at Buffalo Bayou in Houston. Houston Chronicle via Getty Imag
Trash floating around a construction barge at Buffalo Bayou in Houston. Houston Chronicle via Getty Imag

Houston’s new dubious honor stems from its terrible air quality, infrastructure woes and a staggering number of pests invading homes.

LawnStarter’s sister site PestGnome pulled data showing Houston has the worst cockroach problem, with the city crawling with the creepy critters.

It’s not just Houston; southern cities seem to be a haven for cockroaches. San Antonio, Texas and Tampa, Florida, join Houston in the top three for cockroach infestations.

If cockroaches aren’t your nightmare, steer clear of Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore. These cities top the list for rodent-infested homes.

A chart showing the nation’s worst offenders. Lawn Starter
A chart showing the nation’s worst offenders. Lawn Starter

Despite California’s hefty spending on cleaning efforts, several of its cities still rank poorly. San Bernardino, notorious as the “armpit” of California, ranks fourth dirtiest due to atrocious air quality.

Riverside and Ontario, also in the LA metro area, share this dismal air status, now plagued by pollution-heavy warehouses that have replaced orange groves and vineyards.

San Francisco, however, shines as a cleaner gem in California. With a $72.5 million street cleaning spree in 2019 and an additional $16.7 million budget in 2023, it’s among the cleaner half of US cities.

Newark, New Jersey ranked second of the dirtiest cities in America. mandritoiu – stock.adobe.com
Newark, New Jersey ranked second of the dirtiest cities in America. mandritoiu – stock.adobe.com

But this doesn’t account for the rising homeless and drug epidemic facing the city.

Dirty air isn’t the only issue — drinking water contamination is rampant in the southwest. Except for Salt Lake City, every major southwest city violated the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2020. Las Vegas, ranking 19th dirtiest overall, has the most unsafe water in the region.

Ohioans have a particular knack for littering cigarette butts. With five Ohio cities boasting the highest share of smokers, the state is battling an onslaught of discarded cigarettes, despite local campaigns urging residents to kick the habit.

Surprisingly, many of the cleanest cities are coastal, with Virginia Beach topping the list.

However, being near water isn’t a cleanliness guarantee — Fremont, California, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, also rank among the most pristine cities despite their inland locations.