How to choose your cloth nappies - What's best for you
Here are some more things to consider.....
The most effective nappies in terms of containment are fitted nappies with a separate wrap - two sets of elastics make them pretty bomb-proof. But they are a bit bulky and generally not as attractive as a pocket or all-in-one nappy. Bamboo nappies are more absorbent than microfibre but take longer to dry. Microfibre is very quick to dry but also quick to get soaked though. Microfibre acts like a sponge while bamboo or cotton acts more like a towel - so microfibre absorbs loads but the wee is easily squeezed out by an active baby or a tight buggy strap.
Pocket nappies are a good compromise between effectiveness and drying time for general daytime use, if they have bamboo inserts. Bamboo two-part nappies are brilliant but take ages to dry.
Flat nappies - either prefolds or terry squares - are the cheapest options. Prefolds are not very good at containment so you may have poo-nami issues. Terry squares work much better but are more of a faff and do look quite bulky.
LittleLambs make some very reasonably priced "one size fit most" pocket nappies and sized fitted nappies (in bamboo, microfibre or cotton) and wraps. These are made in Turkey using Oekotex fabrics. There are also some amazingly cheap Chinese imports available on ebay but you don't know anything about the conditions in which they were made. A second-hand nappy from a reliable manufacturer may be a better budget option.
Pocket nappies are generally the most slim-fitting and come in some really great colours and fun patterns, but they are not always the most absorbent. The new style of TotsBots Easyfit all-in-one nappies (Easyfit Star) is very trim. Two-part nappies and traditional terry squares with separate wraps give the classic "big bum" look, which is really cute!
Microfibre is quickest to dry, then cotton, then bamboo. Generally speaking, the more absorbent a nappy is, the longer it takes to dry. Fitted nappies are especially slow to dry because of the elastic which traps the wetness. All-in-one nappies, where the absorbent inner part is permanently attached to the waterproof outer can be very slow to dry because it's hard to get good air circulation to all parts of the nappy. Pocket nappies are better because the inserts are quite thin when unfolded or separated out. Old-fashioned flat nappies are very quick to dry considering how absorbent they are, since they unfold to a single layer of fabric.
A lot of childminders and daycare staff would struggle with flat nappies, especially terry squares. They have no problem with any of the other sorts if they are all set up ready to use, with pockets stuffed and size appropriately adjusted.
All-in-one nappies may not wear well enough to do more than one child. The waterproofing and elastics may deteriorate with age and then they're useless. If the waterproofing and elastics wear out on pocket nappies, at least you still have the inserts to use as extra boosters on new nappies. Two-part nappies and flat nappies go on forever, though you will have to buy new wraps occasionally - that's why they are so often offered for sale second-hand. A two-part nappy with failed elastic is still useable with a new wrap.
When you have finished with nappies, old terry squares and prefolds make great cleaning cloths!