The objectives of this study were to develop and test a system for automatic washing of the hooves of dairy cows and to evaluate the effect of frequent automatic washing on the prevalence of digital dermatitis (DD). An automatic hoof washer was developed in an experimental dairy herd and tested in 6 commercial dairy herds in 2 experiments (1 and 2). In the experimental herd, automatic hoof washing resulted in cleaner hooves. In experiments 1 and 2, cows were washed after each milking on the left side only, leaving the right side unwashed as a within-cow control. In experiment 1, hooves were washed with a water and 0.4% soap solution. In experiment 2, hooves were washed with water only. In each experiment, DD was scored in a hoof-trimming chute approximately 60 d after the start of hoof washing. Data were analyzed using a generalized linear mixed model. The outcome was the DD status of each leg (DD positive or DD negative). Herd and cow within herd were included as random effects, and treatment (washing or control) was included as a fixed effect. The statistical analyses showed that the odds ratio of having DD was 1.48 in the control leg compared with the washed leg in experiment 1. In experiment 2, the odds ratio of having DD was 1.27 in the control leg compared with the washed leg. We concluded that automatic washing of hooves with water and soap can help decrease the prevalence of DD in commercial dairy herds.