We've been cloth diapering Jack since he was 3 days old. We had 2 packages of Pampers that we planned to use at first, but after the initial shock that some moron doctor actually let us leave the hospital with a real-life baby wore off, I quickly realized cloth was just as easy as a paper diapers.
I won't do a huge post specifically on cloth diapers. If you want to catch up on what we've used along the way, please click here and here. The answer first version is: we currently do a mix of Bum Genius 3.0 (though I hear the 4.0 that has since come out is great!), Blueberry diapers (man, those have gotten WAY cuter since I bought my 4 diapers 2 years ago), and some other diaper we're borrowing from my sis (her little man's waist is currently too small to use them) that I don't like.
There are tons of resources out there for people looking to get in to cloth. Jillian's drawers (and other companies) offer a cloth trial if you want to determine if cloth is for you without shelling out the upfront cash. I will say that with everything I've tried and bought we've spent about $700-800 on diapers. But that is a one-time cost that we've paid and included some very spendy newborn diapers that have now been used by 3 other people. It can definitely be done MUCH cheaper depending on your system. The average cost for diapers and wipes from newborn to potty training is a whopping $3k. Plus, the diapers I have now can be used when frugalbychoicecheapbynecessity3.0 comes along in the VERY far off future. My uterus and I are on the 2-5 year plan.
Ok, you may be saying to yourself "this is supposed to be a post about laundry. Get the freaking point already". Touché.
We (a term I use very loosely because due to an unpaid 2 year internship, Mr.Frugal Against His Will is rarely home these days, so it's usually all on me) do diaper laundry every other day. We could probably stretch it to a full 2 days, but at that point the diaper pail is itching for a cleaning. We use a top-loader because we rent and that is what is in our apartment. We currently use Rockin'Green detergent (1 bag lasts for about 3-4 months), but have used Tiny Bubbles in the past with good results, but our washer is just terrible, so we needed something a little stronger.
-A diaper with a "solid" (classy way of saying poop) in it gets sprayed off using the Bum Genius diaper sprayer (I would like to make out with the inventor of this) and then put in the pail.
-At home we use cloth wipes (cheap Target Circo washcloths sprayed with a water the phenomenal Baby Bits solution. 1 box of bits has lasted us about 16 months). The wipes also get hosed down after wiping solids.
-When the pail is full, we do 1 rinse on cold, then a hot wash with detergent, and then 2 cold rinses. I hang most of our laundry to dry (see post tomorrow for details on how I accomplish this in the rainy PNW), so I like to put the diapers through an extra spin cycle to get any excess moisture out.
-Diapers go on the rack for 24 hrs. I "finish" the inserts in the dryer the next evening if they need it, and then stuff them in about 10 min while watching TV.
Once you get a system down, diaper laundry is not a big deal - I promise! Also, please note that when we're using the sprayer on the diapers, we're wearing rubber gloves. So, I'm not elbows-deep in poop on a daily basis.
If you're interested in learning more about cloth diaper systems and additional info, feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or post your email in the comments. When I was pregnant, my nesting side and my nerdy side conspired and I somehow found myself with a Powerpoint on the merits of cloth diapering. I'm happy to share the dork wealth with you guys.
*Note, Jilliansdrawers.com is not a sponsor of my blog (though that would rock). All the links above are done based on my experience with products and Jillian's kick ass customer service.