I have always been interested in cloth diapering. When my daughter was born, besides using cloth diapers in the hospital (awesome or what?), we used disposables because cloth wasn't really an option. We were living in a communal house in Australia, and about to move back to Canada. Then we were homeless and living with various relatives for a year after we moved back. I did try some home-made diapers when Judith was about 9 months old, but she didn't like them, and I didn't really know how to use them, so we gave up. I did start using cloth wipes then, however, and have not looked back!
The cloth wipes I use are simply 2 squares of scrap flannel serged (or could be sewn as well) together. Flannel bed sheets work well for this, and can be found at thrift stores. Receiving blankets work well too. And we all have a million of those... I have about 2 dozen wipes, and I never run out.
The wipe solution I use is simply a drop of a natural baby soap, about 10 drops of calendula tincture, and 3 or 4 drops of tea tree oil and water in a little spray bottle. I keep the wipes dry, and then when it's changing time I simply spray a few times on to the wipe, and wipe! Or if it's a really messy poop, I will spray the bum as well. Gideon, however, is not impressed when I spray his man parts, lol.
If there are solid poops in the diaper, I flick them off into the toilet (using a wipe). You can also purchase a "toilet shower", which I've heard is great, but I haven't tried yet.
I use a couple buckets that Dave got from work to store my dirty diapers and wipes in. Old kitty litter buckets or muffin mix buckets from Tim Hortons work well too (if they still have those, it has been over 5 years since I worked there!). Be creative, you don't need to buy one. Just make sure the bucket has a lid! And if you find that it gets too smelly, just put several drops of tea tree oil on a cotton ball and tape it to the inside of the bucket's lid. Don't put water in the bucket, it's good and normal for diapers to be stored in a dry pail. I couldn't imagine a diaper pail full of water and soaking diapers getting knocked over, ooooh the mess!
It is recommended that you have 24-36 diapers on hand per child that needs them (so if you have 2 kids in diapers, you will need double that). I have gotten by just fine for the last few months using only 18 though, I now have 24, and I have never run out or needed to supplement with disposables.
I wash my diapers on Mondays and Fridays. I use Nature Clean detergent, but other common detergents are Allen's Naturally and Claudia's Choice. Basically, you want a detergent that does not have dyes, fragrances, enzymes, or other irritating chemicals, and that does not leave a residue. You can also add 1/2 cup baking soda to the wash to boost cleaning power, and 1/4 cup vinegar to the rinse cycle to help remove all soap, although certain diaper manufacturers do not allow it (it will void the warranty). I find it helps a lot though, so I use it with whatever diapers I can (ie prefolds and fitteds).
I have a front-loading machine, and I first do a regular cold wash with 1/2 the normal amount of detergent, then a hot "power wash" with 1/4 the detergent, and and extra cold rinse, just to get all of the suds out. If there are still suds in the rinse cycle, then I do another full wash cycle with no detergent.You don't want there to be ANY bubbles in the final rinse. If there is any residue left on the diapers they will leak, and possibly irritate your baby's skin. I dry my prefolds, fitteds, pocket diaper inserts, wipes, and changing mat in the dryer on medium heat, and I hang anything with PUL to dry (covers, pocket diapers, All-In-Ones). In the summer I just hang everything outside, as the sun works wonders for getting stains out. Once a month I also do a bleach. Anything bleach-able that is stained gets tossed in (for me, pocket diaper inserts and pre-folds). Then I dry them on high heat. Every so often I will also dry my PUL things in the dryer on medium heat (unless they are labeled as "hang dry only"). All wool items are washed by hand with a wool wash, and dried flat. Woolen items, like diaper covers, don't need to be washed after every use though, only when they are soiled.
Going out and about with a cloth-diapered baby is simple too. I actually think it's easier because I don't have to worry about finding a garbage can. I just bring a few clean diapers (I prefer pocket diapers and AIO's for going out), some wipes, my spray bottle, and my super-cute wetbag (to put the dirty diapers and wipes in) along with me.
The initial costs of cloth diapering can be daunting, especially if you want to go with name-brand manufactured ones (although I think they are worth it and are of good quality, and still cheaper than disposables in the end). But really, cloth diapering can cost as much or as little as you want it to. I purchased 24 used prefold diapers and a pack of Snappis for $35. They were almost brand new and in excellent condition. Then I got 6 small Kushies wraps (covers) from Wal-mart for $30. This alone would have been enough to diaper Gideon until he grew out of them at 6 months. Then, if I wanted to be as frugal as possible, I could have found another couple dozen of the larger prefolds and some of the large wraps that would have fit him possibly until he was potty trained. So I could technically have diapered my son for under $150. (And the best part is that any future children could use the diapers as well, making the savings even greater.) Compared to the THOUSANDS that would be spent on disposables. On the other hand, I have read online personal confessions from a handful of mamas who have spent OVER $8000 on cloth diapers!!!! So really, cost-wise you can go either way. Generally people spend $300-$1000 total on diapers.
However, if you are crafty, there are TONS of free patterns online to sew your own prefold or fitted diapers, which you could make with fabric scraps, and then partner those with wool covers made from old sweaters, and you'd be uber cheap!
I know it may seem confusing, and like a lot of work, but it really isn't. I enjoy cloth diapering very much, and it is not a burden to me whatsoever. What IS a burden to me is having to deal with disposable diaper garbage, and knowing that all of the bulky waste and toxins from the disposable diapers will still be sitting in a landfill, even once when my child is long gone from this earth.
Cloth diapering can also be addictive, as there are some EXTREMELY CUTE diapers out there (just do a simple search on Google, Etsy, or Hyena Cart). There are also cloth diapering communities out there such as Diaper Swappers, that will get you hooked. Personally, I am in love will all things minky (see pics below)!
Now, for the cloth diaper enthusiasts out there, here is my stash!
Right now I primarily use pocket diapers.
I have 14 BumGenius One-Size diapers (they adjust to fit an average baby from birth to potty training). These are my favourite. I got them from The Mom and Baby Boutique. I like this design the best out of all the pocket diapers (I did A LOT of research and tried several diapers before I decided which ones to invest in). They work very well, and I like that they come with a doubler (Gideon needs it), and are an adjustable size, making them very economical. The only downside is the Aplix (Velcro). Now, I like the Aplix, I find it easier than snaps, but I have heard from many people that it wears out and then the diapers fall off easily. I have had my BG's for 6 months now, and the Aplix are still fine and work well, possibly because the front-loader machines are gentler, and I hang them to dry. But I will be very disappointed if I am not able to use these diapers for all of my future children due to the Aplix. If these diapers only had snaps, I think they would be the ultimate diaper bliss for me.
I also just received 6 Large Fuzzi Bunz in the mail. I got these from my friend's store, ecobabycanada.ca, and am very excited about them. They are SO SOFT! I wish I could have underwear this soft, lol. I got them mostly because they are my favourite snap closure diaper. Gideon is getting good at taking off the Aplix diapers, so the snaps will be better for keeping them on if ever he is just wearing a diaper. Also, Gideon is a very chubby boy, and I am almost afraid that he will outgrow his BG's. His butt crack shows in them. They actually fit Judith better than they fit Gideon! So I decided to get some Large FB's, and they fit Gideon nicely. They are a tad big around the legs, but we have had no leaks so that's great. I put one of Gideon's old prefolds in each diaper as well as the insert that comes with the diapers, because I find that the FB insert isn't enough, Gideon is a very heavy wetter.
My personal favourites for purely aesthetic reasons are my minky diapers. They are pocket diapers just like the BumGenius and Fuzzi Bunz, but with a furry outer fabric. They are soft to the touch, and I just have to cuddle with them after they are washed and dried (even if they're stained, lol). These are my "luxury" diapers. I use them on Gideon when we go out so I can show them off. = ) I have one cow-print Blueberry, that honestly I am not all that impressed with, but is ok. It has Aplix, and I wish it had snaps instead. And then I have 3 Chunky Monkey diapers that I LOVE! I also had a medium Chunky Monkey AIO in a giraffe print that I loved as well, and my favourite minky of all time was a Preston's Pants minky/minky (it was minky on the inside too) pocket dipe (the one Judith and I are snuggling in the pics). But those diapers no longer fit Gideon. So that means I MUST have more children!
For Gideon's first 6 months I used prefolds, Snappis and covers when we were at home.
There are several different ways to fold prefold diapers, and they are really simple. They are also nice because they wash up really well, and are fairly easy to dry. They are also the cheapest way to go, I believe (besides making your own from recycled materials).
I also have several random fitted diapers.
These have mostly been given to me, and I use them as back-ups. They are all currently living in the kids' closet, because honestly, I don't ever need them. But they're there "in case". I did use a few regularly when Gideon was younger, I liked the Sandy's Motherease bamboo fitteds the best, and also the rainbow Muttigan 3-step-rise, but none of those fit him anymore.
I have other random PUL, wool, and fleece covers too.
The PUL ones have all been given to me, and I have a couple wool and fleece wraps. Wool is actually a wonderful fiber for covers because it is breathable, and also absorbent. They aren't 100% waterproof, but when urine gets on it, the lanolin actually turns it to soap, so it is sterile, and it also can hold 30% of it's own weight in moisture, and allows moisture to evaporate. Wool can be expensive, though, and must be washed by hand with special soap. But it only needs to be washed when soiled, if wool is wet it just needs to air dry and it is clean and good to go again. Fleece is breathable and water-resistant too. You can also get wool or fleece pants/shorts/skirts that are clothing as well as diaper covers, and I must say are extremely cute!
If you are interested in cloth diapering, but don't know much about it, I'd recommend going to diaperswappers.com and looking around. What I did was browse the for-sale-or-trade listings and went through tons of posts, looking at the photos and getting myself oriented with the different kinds of diapers available. Then I went to the chat boards and asked lots of questions. There are tons of lovely and helpful mamas there just waiting to impart their wisdom with you! I also bought several different diapers from DS, and that is how I was able to decide which ones I liked best before I bought a large quantity of new ones.