(Please do your own research and be aware of the requirements for the warranty on your own cloth diapers. I can't be responsible for any damage due to following my recommendations.)
WASHING CLOTH DIAPERS SHOULD BE EASY!
That's right, it shouldn't be difficult and the supplies do not need to be hard to find. Yes, you WILL have to do extra laundry, and you'll have to deal with poo. But that should be it. No crazy online only products, no extra rinses, strips, or soaks.
I fell into the trap of "cloth diaper safe detergents" at first. I think most CD parents do. I am frugal as you know, so I went with free and clear mainstream detergents like All and Purex. They worked fine. Here is the problem - cloth diaper companies and shops want you to buy their detergent and not have you return diapers due to damage. They formulated detergents to be gentle on diapers and skin. Unfortunately, in many cases they do not properly clean the diapers. They contain lots of "boosters" to soften the water and not enough surfactants to clean effectively.
Home made detergents (like the one I posted) contain real soap, not surfactants. That means the diapers get coated with soap scum. Surfactants are designed to pull out the soil and rinse away. There are some home made mixes that contain NO soap or detergent at all. That's right - some people have been convinced to wash pee and poop diapers in just water softeners and laundry boosters.
ANY MAINSTREAM detergent without fabric softeners will work for your diapers! Doesn't that seem crazy?! You can even use scented detergent. While there are some that believe detergent will build up and scents will cause stinking, remember that surfactants are designed to rinse away. The detergent I have heard recommended the most and what I currently use is TIDE. Original scent ultra Tide. It works wonders. No stinks, very clean, fewer stains. Less expensive brands will also work.
Use a NORMAL amount if detergent for your washer and water type. No need to use a tiny teaspoon of detergent to clean a load full if poopy diapers. Use enough to get them clean!
NO extra rinses should be needed unless your LO is sensitive to a scent or something. Buildup on diaper is more likely caused by minerals in your water than the the detergent. I DO recommend a cold rinse prior to washing, but the rinse at the end of cycle should be enough to get the diapers rinsed.
You should never have to strip your diapers if you have a good wash routine. Diapers that seem clean but aren't washed properly will eventually have problems. They can even cause ammonia burns on your baby's bum. Bleaching to sanitize should only be necessary if you get used diapers or battle bacteria or yeast.
I understand it seems that traditional detergent may wear out your diapers faster. I'm not sure that it doesn't. But I want CLEAN and sanitary diapers. I would think all the bleaching and stripping needed when your wash routine isn't working is probably more harmful.
What if I want a more natural/less chemical/gentle on baby's sensitive skin detergent? You CAN use plant based detergents such as Seventh Generations but you might need to use more to get them clean. The same goes for free and clear formulas.
Sorry for the rambling, I hope that all makes sense and can simplify your routine. Let's not make diapering harder than it needs to be!
Here is my routine. You will need to adjust based on your machine, water type, and other factors. I am more than happy to answer questions! We have a HE front loader and water softener.
1. Prewash rinse with cold water and spin
2. Wash on heavy duty HOT cycle with 3/4 scoop powdered Tide followed by a cold rinse.
That's it, should be all clean!!! :)
You can air or line dry. I put mine in the dryer on low, usually, but drying on high should not damage the diapers. Just be sure you don't stretch hot elastics.