Using cloth diapers will only save you money if you care for them properly. Cloth diapers are an investment and if you treat them properly you should be able to use them over and over again and for multiple children.
First of all, if you exclusively breastfeed your baby you don't need to rinse the poop off of the diapers before washing them. Breastfed baby poop is water soluble. If you feed your baby formula, or even supplement with formula, then you will need to rinse your poopy diapers before putting them in the washer.
If you need (or want) to rinse the poop off your diapers before washing them, all you have to do once you've taken the poopy diaper off your baby is stick it in the toilet, hold on tight to one corner of the diaper and flush. Alternatively, they make diaper sprayers that you can install on your toilet if sticking your hand in the toilet grosses you out.
A lot of people believe that you need to use a wet pail (a diaper pail with water in it) when you use cloth diapers, but this is not true. When we take a diaper off of Pierce we throw it directly into our dry pail. When the pail gets full (about every other day) I do a load of diaper laundry.
Zinc oxide is not compatible with cloth diapers. It will negatively effect the absorbency of the diapers, so if your baby has a diaper rash and you want to use diaper cream with zinc oxide, you will need to use a liner to prevent too much zinc oxide coming into contact with your diaper. The Bummis Diapering Kit that I bought to get us started came with three rolls of Bummis Bio-Soft liners and we've also used Kushies liners. They both work well and when we change a diaper, we flush them. Lately, though, when we're at home, we've been using Kushies reusable liners and they have been the best. I found that the disposable liners aren't very absorbent, so when Pierce pooped, they'd cause the poop to go up the back of his diaper and sometimes it'd even get on his diaper cover and his outfit. Gross. The reusable liners absorb the mess, and he hasn't pooped up the back of his diaper since we started using them. We still use the disposable ones when we're out, but once they're gone we'll go to using the reusable liners full time.
There are four main rules about laundering your cloth diapers:
1. Wash them in hot water;
2. Use very little detergent;
3. Rinse, rinse, rinse!; and
4. Absolutely, positively NO fabric softener.
You have to wash the diapers in hot water to kill any bacteria that might be on them. You want to use as little detergent as possible when washing your diapers in order to avoid detergent build-up on your diapers, which will negatively effect the absorbency of the diapers. You need to rinse your diapers very, very thoroughly to get the poop off at the beginning of the wash, and to get all the detergent out at the end of the wash. Using fabric softener will render your diapers ineffective. Fabric softener will make any moisture that comes into contact with the diapers bead up instead of soak in which, obviously, is not what you want with diapers. So you're not going to use any fabric softener. Not liquid in the wash, not sheets in the dryer. None.
When I wash our diapers, I dump them into the washer and then I run a full cold wash cycle without any detergent. When that is done, the diapers are free of any poop that was on them before I put them in. Then I run them on a hot wash cycle with one tablespoon of detergent. (Yes, I measure it.) I use Arm & Hammer Essentials detergent with no scent. You need to use a detergent free of enzymes, fragrance, dyes, optical brighteners, fabric softeners and bleach on your cloth diapers. Check out this table for information on which detergents will work for your cloth diapers. When the hot wash cycle is finished I run another cold wash cycle so that I can be sure that all the detergent has been rinsed out of the diapers. Then I throw them in the dryer and they're done!
I would love to be able to line-dry my diapers, but first of all, I live in Canada and it's not exactly optimal at this time of year to be line drying clothes, second of all, we live in a third floor condo and don't have anywhere to line dry them. As soon as we get a place with a backyard I am installing a clothesline. Also, if you get any stains on your diapers, you can get them out easily by placing them in the sun. The sun will bleach them right out, so there's no need to use anything extra to get out those stains. (And really, stains won't hurt your diapers, they just make them not look nice, so if they don't bother you then you don't have to worry about doing anything to get rid of them.)
Using cloth diapers really is so easy and I hope that I've inspired some of you to use cloth on your next child. Disposable diapers take 400 years to decompose. I don't want to have Pierce's great-great-great-great-grandchildren cleaning up after what he pooped in when he was a baby.