Yep - we braved the ewww and opted for cloth diapers. We've been using them for a year now, and I thought I would take a moment to write about how it worked for us, how we chose them, wash them, and our final opinion of them.
First off I knew I wanted to use cloth diapers from the start, but S was definitely on the fence. I wanted to use them because they were the more environmentally friendly choice, not to mention less expensive. S was concerned about the ewww factor, and I think he was also concerned about the idea of using a safety pin and folded cloth bringing on nightmares of blow outs. (We have never had a blowout using cloth diapers.) He was willing to explore the option though because he also liked the idea of keeping a pile of diapers out of the landfills.
My research started online. I wandered about amazon.com reading reviews. I read numerous blogs, some by people who used the cloth diapers, but so many more by people who were just sharing their opinions, and even more by people selling a product. It was going to be time consuming sorting out all the information and the authors intent which would determine how seriously I listened to their information. Luckily, I found that my local hospital has a class to review the various cloth diaper products and how exactly they work. I strongly recommend finding a class like this, they weren't selling the products so there was no hidden agenda and I learned so much stuff.
First off the folded piece of cloth with a safety pin still exists. They are called prefold diapers (but they aren't actually prefolded at all) and come in a couple different sizes. Instead of safety pins most people opt for snappies, and we gave them a try in class. S had a really tough time folding them well, and I didn't get along too well with the snappies so this isn't what we ultimately went with.
Next up are "All in ones," and these are pretty much just like disposable diapers except made of cloth. They are easy to put on the baby and this was what S preferred in class. He felt like they were easy to use, and secure. The downside to "all in ones" is that when being laundered they do take the longest to dry.
The other option is a insert diaper, which is what we chose. Essentially there are two pieces, the pad that absorbs and a shell that protects clothing. By breaking the "All in one" into two pieces you can reuse part of the product (the shell) and you can dry the absorbant piece more quickly since air goes all the way through it. There are different configurations for the two pieces within different brands. Some have a pocket with the pad being slid into it. I didn't like this one because removing a dirty pad from the pocket and sliding in a new one seemed gross. I am sure it works for most people, but to me that was icky. The ones we opted for had a pad that snapped into the shell which seemed cleaner.
Choosing cloth diapers for the first few months was easy because we were breastfeeding. Milk makes different poop than formula. It's water soluble, and not so smelly. For this time we just put the diapers in a wet bag and did laundry. Making the move to solid foods changes the poop so that it needs to me removed before entering the washing machine. We purchased liners that were of a webbed material that allowed liquids to pass through and not be absorbed but which made it easy to remove solids. The liners are biodegradable and even flushable (of course always test out the system first.)
Let's see - laundry. As I said I just had a big wet bag that I tossed the diapers into, and every couple days when it was full I did laundry. I tossed them into the washing machine and ran them through a cold rinse. Next I did a full wash cycle with warm or hot water and a very small amount of detergent. You could buy detergent specific to diapers, but I just used a commercial detergent that didn't have dyes and perfumes and such in it. If the diapers ever seem to be smellier than before just run them through an additional rinse cycle because they probably have build-up on them from too much detergent. Same solution if they aren't as absorbant as they were previously. For drying we hung them on a rack outside and tried to remember to bring it in when it rained! During winter I would always wash a load of regular laundry right after them and then dry them together. If I needed them right away I would dry them with 2 loads of laundry, otherwise I would hang them on the rack and wait.
Last but not least lets talk about diaper rash. In the last year VF has only had an occasional red spot of irritation. Because the diapers breath they don't trap the moisture next to her skin so much. For any irritation that does occur though you cannot use a typical cream, it will affect absorbancy. There are many other options though - we used a stick that was kinda like a Vaseline stick. 1 stick has lasted the whole year and doesn't show any sign of running low now.
If I had it to do over again I would definitely choose cloth diapers again - it has been a great experience for us.