Chromic acid is used in wood preservatives, metal finishing, ceramic glazes and to clean laboratory glassware. In the past, it has been used to give a yellow patina to brass musical instruments, but this use is uncommon due to the health hazards of working with chromic acid.
Chromic acid is also used for chemical reactions in laboratories. It is a powerful oxidizing agent used in several common organic chemistry reagents. These reagents include the Jones reagent and the Collins reagent. In addition to chromic acid's role in laboratory tests, it is used to oxidize alcohols into other organic compounds when safer reagents are not available.
Its powerful oxidative property means that chromic acid is a fire and explosion hazard despite the fact that chromic acid itself is not flammable. Chromic acid can ignite organic matter on contact and inflict chemical burns on the skin and respiratory tract. It is also toxic when ingested.
Chromium compounds, including chromic acid, are classified as carcinogens. Because of their potential to cause cancer, federal law limits workers' daily exposure to these compounds. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that all workers exposed to any detectable amount of chromic acid use respirators to reduce the risk of lung cancer.