There are several types/brands to cloth diapers. There are the white cloth sheets you fold and pin, snap diapers, velcro diapers, rubber pants, inserts etc. There's also a plethora of opinions about washing and caring for them. Here's what I think you need to know:
White Cloth Sheet Diapers. These are basically the old school cloth diapers. They come in super handy for putting UNDER your babes bum while changing them (if babe has a pretty big mess, it'll get on the cloth instead of the carpet, changing pad or where ever else you're changing them). They're cheap, made really well and super easy to clean.
Snap Cloth Diapers. I found that snaps are really difficult. You have a wiggly baby which makes getting snaps together difficult (just try snapping a nightie in the middle of the night) and the snaps can sometimes require the diaper be a little too tight or a little too loose. I found it's really hard to get it to fit perfectly. Did I mention the snaps? I hate the snaps.
Velcro Cloth Diapers. The Velcro makes it feel more like using a disposable diaper. It's super convenient and quick to change. They fit really well too. Only downside - the velcro diapers become a mess in the wash and get tangled.
Rubber Pants. These are little 'rubber' diapers you put OVER the cloth diaper to prevent leaks. Most modern day diapers come with this material already built into them.
Cloth Liners. These are hands-down what makes cloth diapers so easy. They line the inside of the diaper and catches the 'mess' and you then throw away leaving the soiled diaper to be cleaned.
Cloth Wet Pads/Inserts. These are thick pads that soak up the mess. Some diapers require them and some don't. They range from hybrid-disposables to cloth reusables and are made of all sorts of materials ranging from organic bamboo fibers to soft fleece.
Now that we have the 101 down, I'd like to chat about the two brands I've used.
We currently use GDiapers. I am in love with this company. The designs are ultra-cute, secured by velcro and comes with a little rubber pant pouches, which you then insert a cloth (or disposable) insert. Although we will have an occasional pee leak, we've never had an actual blowout like we do when using a disposable diaper. We also use a cloth liner on top of the insert which catches the solids and makes it easier to clean in the wash.
I've also tried Rumparooz. Super cute designs, snap closures and features a 'one-size'fits-all' design. These also have a pocket where you literally shove the insert into (which means you'll then need to stick your hand/wand into to pull out to clean). They work great but again, the snaps - I can never get it to fit perfectly and trying to snaps these things in the middle of the night is frustrating.
On to cleaning:
We have the Diaper Dekor bin and use a Planet Wise, washable bag to collect the diapers. I love it because we don't have to go buy more trash bags and for clean up, all I have to do is empty the bag by turning it inside out and throwing it all into the wash. I keep a small bottle of vinegar in the nursery and if there happens to be a pretty bad diaper, I'll put a tad bit of vinegar into the bin with it to help dissolve smell and keep any mold/fungus at bay. Speaking of mold/fungus - I read horror stories about opening up bins and having mushrooms growing. YOU HAVE TO WASH EVERY DAY, or at least every other. Otherwise, yes, you'll be asking for some crazy stuff to grow and smell. We also keep a small metal trash bin next to the changing station which is where wipes, liners and disposables (we use disposable diapers if we're traveling or if we left all the clean diapers in the dryer and it's 2 am). Side note - use a wipe to pick up and throw away the soiled liner (you don't need to buy a special wand).
All of our diapers are Gpants with gpant inserts and liners. Right now, we're on size medium and still fit great. They get washed on the heavy soil load every other day and once a week steamed. The detergent we use is ALL Free and Clear. I did purchase double the amount of inserts compared to diapers so that we can throw them out in the sun to help bleach them if they get really stinky/dingy. After the wash, I pull apart the diapers (remember the velcro) and close each diaper and throw them in the dryer (along with the inserts) on timed dry at the lowest heat possible until dry. DO NOT use a standard dryer sheet - this will leave a waxy type film and hinder the amount of absorbancy the inserts can take. I will occasionally put in a wet Honest brand baby dryer sheet or a drop of essential oil to give them a nice smell if needed. You can also leave the inserts and diapers hang to dry to give your dryer a break. ---- Clean up is that easy. We don't do a diaper service and diapers are cleaned almost every day.
After using cloth diapers, I honestly hate using disposables. It's nice to not have to purchase diapers over and over and if the "Really? I just put a new diaper on you and you go and let out the biggest mess?" feelings aren't there simply because you reuse. As for the amount of diapers - we have 12 diapers and 24 inserts. We could purchase more and do laundry every other day but as I said, working from home means I have time to clean.