So I think in the realms of baby stuff obsession in an attempt to distract myself from my impending doctor's appointment (that got moved to tomorrow due to "an emergency surgery that needed to be scheduled" and how sad that I know exactly what sort of surgery this probably is, and how sad that it happens to anyone ever...) I am now into cloth diapers. One of the blogs I follow had a post about cloth diapers, and from there I got all excited to read other posts about cloth diapers because there's such a variety. If you thought cloth diapering was one unified thing, oh no. One family's cloth diapering may be totally different than another's and that's awesome.
When we were getting ready for having the kid, we knew we needed to pick the cheapest way to go for everything because we were scandalously broke (now we're regular broke and it's a vast improvement). The spouse does number crunching and made some fancy comparison spreadsheet deal, and found that even with our coin op laundry at the time, cloth was cheaper if we did prefolds. So that's what we did.
We bought 2 dozen (they were cheaper by the dozen from our local diaper/crunchy baby shop) bleached infant sized prefolds and 3 covers (2 different kinds as I recall, we only ever had one cover of the second variety) to start with, then a dozen more unbleached prefolds and more covers later, maybe so we had about 5 before daycare. Because I have trouble with snaps, we picked velcro covers and found that up to about 15 months they stayed put with no baby interference, and as we had a long narrow kid, it gave us more flexibility to get a cover to stay on her scrawny behind. We had enough room in our diaper trash can (no pail for us, we got a foot-operated trash can from a big box store that has a removable plastic insert part so no wet bag needed either) for 2 days' worth of diapers, so that's how often we did laundry. We used whatever laundry detergent we had laying around, which turned out to be a mistake. More on that later.
We shopped around and just bought plain old washcloths from the big box store that were fairly thick since they'd get laundered a lot and in hot water with diapers. For clean-up we just used plain water that we kept at the diapering station in a pump pot we rescued from my in-law's basement and the 70s. Water stayed warm in there for about 24 hours which was nice.
The Kid started out little (7 lbs-ish?) and with a cache of freebie disposables, so we didn't start cloth until she was about a month old (3 weeks? dunno) and into pampers size 1 disposables (maybe weighed 8 or 9 lbs then).
When the kid started daycare full time at 6 months old, we found a place that would do our cloth diapers but without any dumping (silly state policy, that, since you're supposed to dump ALL diapers with poo in the toilet.. but I digress). We found that we didn't have enough covers to have them be reused during the day at daycare so we doubled the number to 10 in her size. Aside from needing a giant diaper bag, this all went really smoothly. In time we bought larger covers and large prefolds. For a bit when she was between sizes we double diapered with the smalls at night in a bigger sized cover.
At about 15 months old, the kid developed an awful yeast infection that wouldn't go away while she was in cloth but improved when in disposables, so we started ironing the prefolds after washing and machine drying. That totally fixed it. I also tried to get the diapers outside for some sun. Maybe this was earlier and it was still winter, but in the decent weather I dried the diapers outside and tossed them into the drier with a small load of laundry to get fluffed because otherwise they were very scratchy. Organic chemistry will sap your ability to remember anything else that happened during the class.
Then when the kid was 18 or 19 months old, we moved. Our new daycare would take cloth diapers but after about 3 weeks, our provider offered to buy disposables for the kid to use because cloth was too much for her time-wise (prefolds add about 30 seconds to diaper-change time once you get used to them). Since it didn't change our costs, we went with it. However this meant that only 2-3 diapers got worn a day and diaper laundry didn't get done for too long (remember, we had 10 covers and 36 prefolds, so it was about a week before we got to the laundry once...oops...). Our diaper pail grew a scary mold and the diapers all turned bright pink. It turns out we'd been using a liquid detergent that had optical brighteners in it, and when there was mold (icky scary green fuzzy mold eeeeeew), it caused the chemicals left in the diapers to turn pink rather than reflecting white like they had been. The majority of our diapers were now ruined, although the covers were salvageable (aside from creepy, the mold ate away a lot of the cotton too so no absorbancy was left even after washing).
Then we switched to disposables for about 18 months and I hated it. So many more leaks, so much trash (and if you think hauling stinky diapers down 2 flights of stairs and to the other end of the building to wash is awful, double the volume and weight and triple the smell to take diapers out to the trash). We did cloth training pants and I hated it slightly less than having to keep buying those highly expensive disposable training pants, although being in cloth made zero difference in the kid's interest in potty training.
Moral of the story: cloth at home only will not work for us because we need to do laundry more often, and since we did diapers alone, it stopped being cost-effective to wash just 5 diapers at a time rather than 12. Also don't use detergent with optical brighteners on your diapers (or maybe any other clothes).
For Little Monster, we are planning to do the same system because we've got all the wee baby stuff left in good condition and the bigger covers. We have not actually talked to our daycare provider about this (yay she magically has an opening for an infant at the same time we need childcare for Little Monster! YAY! one daycare for two children!) but it's on the agenda for the next few days. I'm thinking I'll get a couple of newborn-sized cloth diapers so we could start cloth sooner and because they are so stinking cute. I'm actually thinking I'll try an all-in-one to see if I'm in love with it and want more (and then I'll pick up extra hours at work to cover this luxury).