Prefolds are a common suggestion for cloth diapering on a budget. I had some tiny gerber prefolds that I find basically worthless. As i understand it gerber makes prefolds that are 100% cotton and some with a different filler. I think we have the ones with the weird filler. They do not absorb well at all. And they are far too tiny for baby E's bum. I wanted to give good quality prefolds a shot but i didn't want to invest a ton of money in something i wasn't sure my family would use. I ordered 5 indian prefolds to try for a total of $10.
Prefolds have to be prepped. Since they are a natural fiber the oils from the fiber have to be washed out before the fabric will absorb. I bought indian prefolds because they have to be washed 5-7 times (with drying in between!) vs the 20 something times for chinese prefolds. My washer is wonky it would take me forever to wash the prefolds 5 times. Luckily the Internet came to the rescue! You can boil the prefolds to remove the oils. I could fit 3 in my biggest pot. They boiled for 20 minutes after which time I washed and dried on hot. My goodness it made a huge difference! They went from flat to puffy.
Indian prefolds after boiling
I've used the prefolds to stuff our Flips covers a few times. It works but makes the baby's butts huge. I think they are a little large to be used as inserts, Today I used a prefold on baby E. I used a snappi and the Thirsty cover. It worked and was easy to get on. However my husband didn't like it. Baby E soaked the diaper and hubby didn't like having to touch the soaking wet diaper. Personally it doesn't bother me. I'm constantly feeling up the diapers and inserts to find out how wet everything is. That is what hand washing is for. ;)
I'm not sure prefolds are for us. I have bought a few more to try and maybe we will find the prefold love. I don't mind them but I don't find anything impressive about them either. They take longer to dry (very humid climate) then my pocket diapers. The prefolds require covers. The cheapest cover i've seen new was $6. At $2 a prefold thats $8 a diaper. As much as my kawaii pockets which I like more. If you can find a deal on used prefolds and covers or make your own covers I can see it being a good budget option. I'm not sure its a great choice for our family.