The purpose of this laboratory study was to assess the potential cleaning efficacy of nine different toothbrushes around brackets in vitro. Standard and Mini Diamond brackets were fixed on coloured teeth in a special model, coated with white titanium oxide, brushed in a machine with different manual toothbrushes (three different types: planar, staged, and v-shaped bristle field), and tested with a horizontal motion for 1 minute. After brushing, the teeth were scanned and the black surfaces were planimetrically assessed using a grey scale. Tooth areas which were black again after brushing indicated tooth surface contact of the filaments. The remaining white tooth areas around the brackets indicated 'plaque-retentive' niches. Statistical analysis was carried out using the Kruskal-Wallis one-way test of variance for individual comparison. Bonferroni adjustment was used for multiple testing, and comparison of bracket size with Wilcoxon signed rank test. In the most critical area of 2 mm around the brackets, there was no statistically significant difference between the different toothbrushes evaluated. The untouched area ranged from 11 to 26 per cent of the initially whitened tooth surface. By pooling the toothbrushes according to their design, the median cleaning efficacy of the v-shaped (73.1 per cent) and staged (75.6 per cent) toothbrushes resulted in significantly superior cleaning efficacy than planar toothbrushes (60.7 per cent) for standard brackets. For mini bracket type, staged toothbrushes showed a significantly better mean cleaning efficacy (77.8 per cent) than planar (65 per cent) and v-shaped (72.4 per cent) toothbrushes. Staged and v-shaped brush designs resulted in superior cleaning efficacy of teeth with fixed orthodontic attachments than toothbrushes with a planar bristle field. None of the tested toothbrushes showed a consistent, significantly higher cleaning efficacy than the others in this in vitro experiment.