Molecular surface contaminants can cause degradation of optical systems, especially if the contaminants exhibit strong absorption bands in the region of interest. Different strategies for estimation of spectral degradation responses due to uniform films for various types of systems are reviewed. One tool for calculating the effects of contaminant film thickness on signal degradation in the mid IR region is the simulation program CALCRT. The CALCRT database will be reviewed to correlate spectral n and k values associated with specific classes of organic functional groups. Various schemes are also investigated to estimate the spectral degradation in the UV-Vis region. Experimental measurements of reflectance changes in the IR to UV-Vis regions due to specific contaminants will be compared. Approaches for estimating changes in thermal emissivity and solar absorptivity will also be discussed.© (2002) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.