Hi I am Sharni and I own the Nappy Shoppe in Allen Texas. We get a lot of people who come to the store or email me who want to use cloth for the various benefits but are concerned about the washing aspect.
It is easy! I promise you are not required to have a stream in the back yard with rocks to pound on the diapers. Your washing machine does all of the work! When I was washing diapers I was doing 2-3 loads of diaper wash a week, but on the other side of the coin, I was doing less clothing wash than I had with my previous baby in disposables, because I had far less blowouts and leaks with cloth. So I found that I was not doing many extra loads.
The keys to a successful washing routine are water and the right detergent. Diapers are dirty! Yes dirty! Someone just pooped and peed on cloth so they are dirty, and this takes water to clean out. So I ran a rinse before I did anything. I did a cold rinse, so I didn't set any stains with heat. Now I have removed the worst of the soil, I can then add my detergent to really clean the diapers.
I use an additive free detergent. There are several great brands on the market that are made for cloth diapers, such as Rockin Green, Thirsties liquid, Eco Sprout and Eco Nuts. And yes you can use these on your regular wash too. I found them to be comparable price wise so I no longer buy regular detergent.
I found I used far less detergent than I used to before I cloth diapered. One of the biggest mistakes that many make (including myself starting out) was that they use too much detergent. And the residue gets left in the fibers and reacts with pee and causes rashes. I found for my water, a tablespoon of Rockin Green worked the best for me.
Suds do not make for clean diapers. Suds mean there is residue to be removed from the water. The better detergents do not make suds. When you peek in your machine for the final rinse, suds is something you do not want to see. If you do, run a rinse cycle or full cycle again.
I use hot water for the wash cycle. My machine does a hot wash and cold rinse. This worked fine for me. Do not use the sanitise cycle on your machine, the water can be so hot it can ruin the elastics and the waterproofing of your diapers.
Do not use bleach or fabric softener. Keep it simple! These items will harm your diapers. All you need is water and your diaper safe detergent to wash your diapers. Do not use dryer sheets. Not only do these harm your diapers, but they also have harmful chemicals in them that are not good for you in general. Cutting out all these items keeps the cost of washing down too!
So keep it simple, a good detergent and lots of water, and your diapers should be clean.