A certain time ago I bought laundry powder. A straight forward enough task, one would be inclined to assume.
My having already used this new powder a couple of times, Enrique, my flatmate, approached me in the kitchen one evening as I was cooking. (In my world, cooking is anything that makes food taste better, and is therefore something more commonly understood as following the instructions on the back of the packet.)
"Um, is this your laundry powder?" He had the box in his hand.
"Yeah," I said. "You can use it if you want."
"No, no," he said. "It's um," he sounded apologetic. "The wrong sort of soap."
"I'm not with you." I mean, soap is soap, let's not be pedantic.
"Well," he said, pointing to a tiny, stylised illustration on the back of the box. "It isn't for washing-machines, it's only for washing clothes by hand."
"They make soap for hand-washing clothes?" This, to me, seemed equivalent to a revelation that my toothpaste was intended for molars only.
"Yeah. But I wouldn't worry about it. I mean, it still works, right?"
I sniffed my shirt. "Seems to." I said.
And so I went on using the wrong laundry powder, until it was time to replace it.
Upon my most recent visit to the supermarket, I was careful to purchase a box of soap powder that had a picture of a front-loading washing machine on it, looking the apotheosis of clean.
"Oliver, is that your laundry powder on top of the machine?"
". . . Yes?"
"Yeah. . . that's not actually soap."
"What do you mean 'it's not soap'?"
"Well, it is soap, but not for your clothes. It's for cleaning the inside of the machine. I don't know what you call it in English."
"I don't know what you call it in English. They actually make stuff to do that?"
"Yeah, they do. You're supposed to add a little bit in with your normal powder each time you use the machine."
I have much to learn about the subtleties of soap.
On the bright side: having used an entire box of The Wrong Type of Soap, it's probably for the best that I brought something with which to clean the inside of the machine.