The ick factor was never a major concern when we started researching cloth diapers. Once you've cleaned up after a potty training child, washing diapers will seem easy. What we were concerned about, however, was the increased water use necessary to launder them - especially when the directions suggest pre-rinsing, washing and then rinsing again.
Yes, our water bill did noticeably increase, but that is also a result of our family increasing from three to four people. I look at it this way: the amount of money we are saving from not having to purchase disposable diapers more than makes up for the higher utility bill. And using cloth diapers puts less waste in the local landfill and uses less overall energy in the manufacturing process than thousands of disposable diapers.
The only dilemma then is the moral one I face when the county issues the inevitable summer drought warning. Usually the limitations refer more to outdoor watering and car washing, not necessarily indoor usage for washing clothes and such, but here is what I do to lessen my personal impact.
* I only wash diapers when I'm down to the last one or two. This ensures a full load, optimizing the efficiency of our water use.
* If the diapers are heavily soiled, I stop the first rinse cycle once the washer is full of water and let them soak overnight. This makes the wash cycle more effective and makes the need for re-washing or extra rinse cycles less likely.
* Just as I don't hand wash the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, I don't hand wash the diapers before laundering them. If a diaper is heavily soiled a quick rinse in the sink is necessary, but most of the time it is not, especially if you are utilizing the pre-rinse cycle in the washing machine.
Another thing to consider when washing cloth diapers is the detergent. Diapers require special soaps that won't leave residues which would affect the diaper's absorbency. These detergents tend to also be free of potential toxins and are biodegradable. We switched to Country Save for all of our laundry and use Rockin' Green when the diapers need an extra boost to come clean.
So, although water usage is up, we are actually taking more precautions when it comes to protecting our water supply. The benefits to using cloth diapers outweigh the negatives for us. And the early potty training theory is just a bonus.