I am currently working on a cloth diaper review and thought it would be a good idea to first offer up a rundown of the different types of diapers and how they work.
AIO-All in One. These basically work like a disposable diaper without the waste. It has all the absorbent material built in and a waterproof outer shell. You just put a diaper on, then when it is soiled, you take the whole thing off and put a new one on. The whole diaper goes in the diaper pail to be washed later. You will want to dump any BM (bowel movement) waste in the toilet before placing the diaper in the pail. You will need enough of these to get through all your diaper changes as most of them are line dry only and need plenty of time to dry. You will want to wash the first half of the days changes in the afternoon so they are ready for the next day.
AI2/Hybrid-All in 2. These diapers consist of a shell (outer cover) and an insert. You can use them with cloth or with a biodegradable/flushable/compostable insert. The disposable inserts are very handy for when you are on the go and don't want to carry around dirty cloth diapers with you. Which ever you choose, you place the insert inside the shell and put it on your baby like a regular diaper. Most cloth diaper covers have snaps or velcro for closure.
Pocket Diapers-These look like the AIOs, but they have a pocket between the cover and liner where you can stuff inserts to increase their absorbency. You need to remove the insert before washing.
Cover/Shell-A waterproof outer shell that covers the absorbent cloth. There is no absorbent material sewn in.
Insert-A rectangular piece of cloth that lays inside the cover or is placed in the pocket.
Disposable insert-These diapers can be thrown away and will break down in a landfill (if they find their way out of the plastic bag they were thrown in :) They can be flushed if you have good plumbing. You do have to tear them open, dump the insides into the toilet, break it up with something, flush it, and then do the same for the outer part. Or they can be thrown into your compost bin if they are only wet with urine.
Tri-fold-Like the cloth diapers of old. These are what most people call burp cloths these days. You fold them into thirds, fan out the back corner, and place it under baby's bottom. Fold the rest up over the front of your baby and fan out the front corners. Place the back corners over the front ones and secure with diaper pins or a Snapi. A Snapi is a closure device that is a rubber T with teeth at each end. You place the top of the T across the corners and then the bottom of the T down the front. This securely holds the diaper closed without any pokey pins. After the diaper is secured you will place a cover over the top. You can also just tri-fold these diapers and lay them flat inside a cover like an insert, but this makes for a bulkier diaper.
Bioliners-These are a must! You will save so much time, energy, and detergent if you use these!!! Bioliners are what I like to call "poop catchers." They look like a big dryer sheet. You just lay them on top of the insert or diaper so they are between your baby's bottom and the cloth. When your child has a BM (works better for more solid ones) the majority of it stays on this liner. When you change your baby you just take the bioliner to the bathroom and dump the BM in the toilet then throw the liner away. I rarely have to rinse my diapers before washing thanks to these amazing little guys.
There are other types of cloth diapers and a few different materials. This post will give you an idea of the types of diapers that are in my upcoming review. Let me know if you have any questions or if any of this is confusing.