Objectives Quality indicators (QIs) have been developed to define appropriate antibiotic use in hospitalized patients. We evaluated whether a checklist based on these QIs affects appropriate antibiotic use and length of hospital stay. Methods An antibiotic checklist for patients treated with intravenous antibiotics was introduced in nine Dutch hospitals in a stepped wedge cluster randomized trial. Prophylaxis was excluded. We included a random sample before (baseline), and all eligible patients after (intervention) checklist introduction. Baseline and intervention outcomes were compared. Primary endpoint was length of stay (LOS), analysed by intention to treat. Secondary endpoints, including QI performances, QI sum score (performance on all QIs per patient), and quality of checklist use, were analysed per protocol. Results Between 1 November 2014 and 1 October 2015 we included 853 baseline and 5354 intervention patients, of whom 993 (19%) had a completed checklist. The LOS did not change (baseline geometric mean 10.0 days (95% CI 8.6–11.5) versus intervention 10.1 days (95% CI 8.9–11.5), p 0.8). QI performances increased between +3.0% and +23.9% per QI, and the percentage of patients with a QI sum score above 50% increased significantly (OR 2.4 (95% CI 2.0–3.0), p < 0.001). Higher QI sum scores were significantly associated with shorter LOS. Discordance existed between checklist-answers and actual performance. Conclusions Use of an antibiotic checklist resulted in a significant increase in appropriateness of antibiotic use, but not in a reduction of LOS. Low overall checklist completion rates and discordance between checklist-answers and actual provided care might have attenuated the impact of the checklist.