Indoor surfaces are known to support organic films, but their thickness, composition, and variability between environments remain poorly characterized. Alkenes are expected to be a significant component of these films, with the reaction with O3 being a major sink for O3 and source of airborne chemicals. Here, we present a sensitive, microscale, nanospectrophotometric method for quantifying the alkene (C=C bond) content of surface films and demonstrate its applicability in five studies relevant to indoor air chemistry. Collection efficiencies determined for a filter wipe method were ~64%, and the overall detection limit for monoalkenes was ~10 nmol m-2 . On average, painted walls and glass windows sampled across the University of Colorado Boulder campus were coated by ~4 nm thick films containing ~20% alkenes, and a simple calculation indicates that the lifetime for these alkenes due to reaction with O3 is ~1 hour, indicating that the films are highly dynamic. Measurements of alkenes in films of skin oil, pan-fried cooking oils, a terpene-containing cleaner, and on various surfaces in a closed classroom overnight (where carboxyl groups were also measured) provided insight into the effects of chemical and physical processes on film and air composition. © 2020 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.