Abstract Fourier transform infrared-attenuated total reflection (FTIR-ATR) spectra have been recorded of 11-layer Langmuir–Blodgett (LB) films of stearic acid deposited at various surface pressures (0.1, 15, and 35 mN/m), and the molecular orientation angles were evaluated quantitatively, which supplied insight into the molecular order with the alkyl chains tightly packed like crystal in the LB films deposited at the zero and higher surface pressures. These experimental results indicate that, in the Langmuir film as the precursor of LB films, stearic acid molecules self-aggregate to form two-dimensional crystalline domains already even at the zero surface pressure, which results in the inhomogeneity of monolayer. The analysis of dependence of νC=O intensity on the surface pressure, surface density, and subphase temperature leads to the conclusion that the defects in LB films originate from the Langmuir film and be conserved upon deposition. Annealing below 50°C and cooling could improve the monolayer homogeneity, and thus a defect-free or low-defect LB films can be deposited. Furthermore, ion exchange conducted in the LB films, on the other hand, confirms the existence of structure defects in LB films of stearic acid. The polar plane microstructure, lateral transport along the polar planes and the coordination types of stearic acid/cation system may be the rate-limiting process. The results have implication on the possible uses of stearic acid LB films as ion-exchange materials or sensors.