For atomic layer deposition (ALD) of doped, ternary, and quaternary materials achieved by combining multiple binary ALD processes, it is often difficult to correlate the material properties and growth characteristics with the process parameters due to a limited understanding of the underlying surface chemistry. In this work, in situ Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy was employed during ALD of zinc-oxide, tin-oxide, and zinc-tin-oxide (ZTO) with the precursors diethylzinc (DEZ), tetrakis(dimethylamino)tin (TDMASn), and H2O. The main aim was to investigate the molecular basis for the nucleation delay during ALD of ZTO, observed when ZnO ALD is carried out after SnO2 ALD. Gas-phase FTIR spectroscopy showed that dimethylamine, the main reaction product of the SnO2 ALD process, is released not only during SnO2 ALD but also when depositing ZnO after SnO2, indicating incomplete removal of the ligands of the TDMASn precursor from the surface. Transmission FTIR spectroscopy performed during ALD on SiO2 powder revealed that a significant fraction of the ligands persist during both SnO2 and ZnO ALD. These observations provide experimental evidence for a recently proposed mechanism, based on theoretical calculations, suggesting that the elimination of precursor ligands is often not complete. In addition, it was found that the removal of precursor ligands by H2O exposure is even less effective when ZnO ALD is carried out after SnO2 ALD, which likely causes the nucleation delay in ZnO ALD during the deposition of ZTO. The underlying mechanisms and the consequences of the incomplete elimination of precursor ligands are discussed.