- Self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) are known to form on a variety of substrates either via chemisorption (i.e., through chemical interactions such as a covalent bond) or physisorption (i.e., through physical interactions such as van der Waals forces or “ionic” bonds). We have studied the behavior and effects of water on the structures and surface energies of both chemisorbed octadecanethiol and physisorbed octadecylamine SAMs on GaAs using a number of complementary techniques including “dynamic” contact angle measurements (with important time and rate-dependent effects), AFM, and electron microscopy. We conclude that both molecular overturning and submolecular structural changes occur over different time scales when such SAMs are exposed to water. These results provide new insights into the time-dependent interactions between surfaces and colloids functionalized with SAMs when synthesized in or exposed to high humidity or bulk water or wetted by water. The study has implications for a wide array of phenomena and applications such as adhesion, friction/lubrication and wear (tribology), surfactant–solid surface interactions, the organization of surfactant-coated nanoparticles, etc.